Health Standing on the shoulders of giants

Standing on the shoulders of giants

Our parents do more than grant us life.

Research from James Cook University and The University of Queensland shows they also give our bodies the power to sustain it.

Results from a new study of twins indicate genes may play a bigger role in fighting disease than scientists previously thought.

Associate Professor John Miles says a comparison of immune response in sets of identical and non-identical twins shows genetic similarity is closely linked to the way our bodies respond to common viruses.

“We were surprised to see that the ‘power’ of your immune system is predominantly controlled by the genes passed down from your mother or father,” Professor Miles says.

“These genes determine whether you mount an intense or weak immune response when confronted with a viral infection.”

The findings serve as a reminder that our own survival depends in part on the struggle of past generations, handed down in the genetic legacy inherited from our parents.

The next phase of research will be to try to pinpoint the genes responsible for greater levels of immunity.

“If we can identify these genes we can imitate ‘super defenders’ when we design next generation vaccines,” Professor Miles says.

“Likewise, if we can identify the genes that are failing in an immune response we could possibly correct that dysfunction using immunomodulation.”

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