A UB researcher has collaborated on one of the first studies to examine, in animals, how depression in fathers may impact their offspring.
Preliminary results indicate that depression is passed on to the next generation primarily through behavioral interactions between parents and offspring, not through genetics, explains study co-author David Dietz, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology.
As part of the study, Dietz and colleagues attempted to examine if epigenetics—changes in the genome of an organism caused by something other than changes in DNA sequences—might play a role in inheriting depression.
Researchers used a rodent model of depression, studying male mice who had been “socially defeated” through exposure to chronic stress.
When the males bred through natural methods, their offspring showed a susceptibility to exhibit depressive symptoms, such as social avoidance.
However, when offspring were bred from the fathers through in vitro fertilization (IVF) and the fathers had no direct contact with them or the mothers, the offspring’s susceptibility to depressive-like symptoms was greatly reduced.
“With the offspring of the IVF experiments, you definitely lost the very robust transmission of depression-like behaviors that we saw in the group bred through natural methods,” says Dietz.
Dietz and collaborators from the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine presented the findings Nov. 16 at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.
The research, funded by the National Institutes of Health, was previously published in the journal Biological Psychiatry in an article titled “Paternal Transmission of Stress-Induced Pathologies.”