Scientists have discovered that unborn children use a gene from their father to control their mother’s metabolism, which helps them receive more nutrients during pregnancy.
Scientists at Cambridge have discovered that fetuses use a copy of a gene they inherited from their father to force their mothers to give up as many nutrients as possible during pregnancy.
This “remote control” creates an internal conflict between mother and fetus over resources. The research focused on the hormones in the placenta that direct the mother to support the baby’s development. This is the first direct evidence that a paternal gene influences the mother to direct nutrients to the fetus.
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Children with a defect in this gene (lgf2) may grow too quickly or have stunted growth, which affects their long-term health and may lead to diabetes and obesity later in life.
The fetus remotely “directs” its mother’s metabolism, embroiling them in an internal battle for nourishment. The mother’s body wants the baby to survive, but she must maintain enough glucose and fat in her system for her health, childbirth, breastfeeding, and future reproduction.
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