A Good Start Lasts a Lifetime: Developmental Origins of Health and Disease Textbook Release

September 22, 2015
1:00 pm US Eastern Time

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The connections between a pregnant mother experiences and the resulting health of her child have long been understood. The Barker hypothesis, developed almost 30 years ago, established the concept that malnutrition in pregnancy impairs fetal growth in ways that promote adaptations for survival, while at the same time affecting the development of body systems in ways that may predispose the individual to disease later in life.

The concept has expanded in recent years to include a wide range of environmental exposures, and is now known as Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD). DOHaD research has demonstrated that environmental exposures during pregnancy may be associated with an increased risk for a number of disorders, including cardiovascular disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and metabolic disturbances, osteoporosis, chronic obstructive lung disease, some forms of cancer, and mental illnesses.

While the research base for DOHaD continues to grow, compilations of work in the field are needed. This fall, researchers from the University of Missouri will publish a new text entitled “The Epigenome and Developmental Origins of Health and Disease”. On this call authors presented a preview of the text, and discussed its applications for education, clinical care, and directions for future research.

Featured Speakers

Cheryl S. Rosenfeld, PhD, DVM, is the Associate Professor of Biomedical Sciences at the Christopher s. Bond Life Sciences Center of the University of Missouri. Dr. Rosenfeld specializes in studying the effects of maternal diet on offspring, exploring how the in-utero environment can shape risks for later disease. Her research with mice has yielded major breakthroughs. She has determined that an energy-rich maternal diet will result in more male mouse pups, while a restricted-calorie diet produces daughters more frequently. She also established a relationship between a certain hair-coat color and obesity and diabetes in mice. Most recently, the Rosenfeld lab has identified spatial learning disabilities in male deer mice whose mothers consumed a diet supplemented with bisphenol A, (BPA), a known endocrine disruptor and a common pollutant.

Shuk-Mei Ho, PhD, is internationally recognized for her expertise in the role of hormones and endocrine disruptors on disease development including tumorigenesis in the prostate, ovary, endometrium and breast. The 2015 recipient of the University of Cincinnati’s Rieveschl Award for Distinguished Scientific Research, she has made major contributions to our understanding of the impact of heavy metals, oxidative stress and inflammation on carcinogenesis; the discovery of biomarkers for cancer detection and patient classification, and mechanism-based drug development. Dr. Ho’s research employs state-of-the-art investigative tools for genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, epigenomics, and informatics research focused on improving predictive, preventive medicine.

Martha Susiarjo, PhD, recently completed her postdoctoral fellowship at University of Pennsylvania and will start a new position as of September 1, 2015 at the University of Rochester as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Environmental Medicine at the UR Medical Center. Dr. Susiarjo's expertise is environmental exposure and epigenetics. She is studying mechanisms leading to disease and developmental abnormalities in the offspring when pregnant mothers are exposed (using the mouse model), especially diet-chemical interaction. One goal of her research program is to elucidate the mechanisms of disease with environmental origin, and to understand more what we can do to manage and prevent disease risk (for example, diet intervention).

The call was moderated by Karin Russ, National Coordinator of the CHE Fertility and Reproductive Health working group.