Scientists claim that homosexuality is not genetic - but it arises in the womb

9:25:53 PM, Sunday, December 16, 2012

(io9.com, By George Dvorsky, Dec 11, 2012) �A team of international researchers has completed a study that suggests we will probably never find a �gay gene.' Sexual orientation is not about genetics, say the researchers, it's about epigenetics. This is the process where DNA expression is influenced by any number of external factors in the environment. And in the case of homosexuality, the researchers argue, the environment is the womb itself.

The Epigenetic Key

Writing in The Quarterly Review of Biology, researchers William Rice, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Urban Friberg, a professor at Uppsala University in Sweden, believe that homosexuality can be explained by the presence of epi-marks � temporary switches that control how our genes are expressed during gestation and after we're born.

Specifically, the researchers discovered sex-specific epi-marks which, unlike most genetic switches, get passed down from father to daughter or mother to son. Most epi-marks don't normally pass between generations and are essentially "erased." Rice and Friberg say this explains why homosexuality appears to run in families, yet has no real genetic underpinning.

Epigenetic mechanisms can be seen as an added layer of information that clings to our DNA. Epi-marks regulate the expression of genes according to the strength of external cues. Genes are basically the instruction book, while epi-marks direct how those instructions get carried out. For example, they can determine when, where, and how much of a gene gets expressed.

Moreover, epi-marks are usually produced from scratch with each generation � but new evidence is showing that they can sometimes carryover from parent to child. It's this phenomenon that gives the impression of having shared genes with relatives��

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