Immune System Variation Is More Nurture, Less Nature

January 16, 2015 3:36 PM

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Immune System Variation Is More Nurture, Less Nature

Individual differences in the human immune system are mostly due to environmental influences, which tend to outweigh hereditary influences, with the imbalance between the two becoming more lopsided as we age. Ordinarily, environmental and hereditary contributions are so entangled that they cannot be neatly separated and “put on the scales.” Yet even with something as complex and as variable as the immune system, an old trick sufficed: a study of twins.

At the Stanford University School of Medicine, scientists led by Mark Davis, Ph.D., compared pairs of monozygotic (identical) twins and dizygotic (fraternal) twins. Monozygotic twins inherit the same genome. Despite inevitable copying errors when cells divide, which cause tiny genetic divergences to...

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