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Photo: New York Times

Study finds womb for epigenetic twin variation

In a real-life daytime television-friendly tale, two sets of separated-at-birth identical Columbian twins – each living with the wrong twin – have been reunited.

But that’s not the astounding part of the story. Scientists studied their genes and found that, in the case of one set of twins, their expression varied widely. Aside from obvious environmental factors (for example, one twin was raised in the city, the other in the country), womb conditions were also responsible for their gene expression variances.

While the effects of this are yet to be analysed, study co-author associate professor Jeffrey Craig from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute said the amount of placenta accessed and the fact that twins have separate umbilical cords and amniotic sacs could have accounted for the twins’ in-utero divergences.

“The study shows we can be influenced by the environments we encounter before birth,” he said.

The ‘mixed-up brothers of Bogota’ will probably populate listicles for years to come. The real sensation, however, can be found in the annals of Epigenomics, where the study findings were published.

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