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Michael Skinner, Ph.D., professor, School of Biological Sciences at Washington State University, delivers a thorough overview of his work studying epigenetic transgenerational inheritance.

Dr. Skinner earned a BS in chemistry from Reed College in Oregon, a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Washington State University and completed his Postdoctoral Fellowship at the C.H. Best Institute at the University of Toronto. Dr. Skinner has been a respected faculty member of Vanderbilt University as well as the University of California at San Francisco.

Dr. Skinner discusses his background. As he explains his work is focused on epigenetic transgenerational inheritance. When gestating females are exposed to various types of toxins, the exposure does not just affect the offspring but it can be passed for multiple generations. He outlines the many kinds of toxins that can be a factor, that can come through our nutrition, from smoking and alcohol, as well as from environmental toxicants (chemicals, etc.)

Much of his important research has been centered upon the investigation of gonadal growth and differentiation, particularly within the arena of reproductive biology. In regard to men, Dr. Skinner explains that because men essentially ‘turn over’ their sperm (approximately 250 million within a few days), environmental exposures can potentially alter the epigenetics of the stem cell that generates the sperm, which could then shift all the sperm that is generated thereafter. Thus, Dr. Skinner states that males are even more sensitive to environmental and other toxins than females. And Dr. Skinner talks about how females are impacted by these various toxins, explaining how female eggs have remarkably developed an ability to protect themselves from environmental toxins, etc. and as such are more resistant to these negative influences.

The Ph.D. discusses some of the interesting subsets of finches on the Galápagos Islands that demonstrated changes in their phenotypes, from different metabolism, colors, beak structures, etc. He discusses the research that he conducted there, and explains his comparative analyses of various birds from different areas. Through his research, it was clear that while the genetics was the same across the board, comparing birds from the various sites, the epigenetics was dramatically different between the sites of collection. Ultimately, what Dr. Skinner and his team found was that environmental epigenetics can drive the shifts in the phenotype, entirely independent of the genetics.

Dr. Skinner continues on in his discussion of factors that impact epigenetics. He explains how the experience in subsequent generations… diet, new things one is exposed to, etc., can actually counterbalance things such that the overall phenotype gets changed.

Dr. Skinner has amassed more than 300 peer-reviewed publications and is a regular guest lecturer at conferences and prestigious university seminars.

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