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Free Presentation Explores New Understandings Of Developmental Origins Of Health And Disease
For many years now, researchers and clinicians have understood that the health status of pregnant and lactating woman directly impacts her offspring’s later health for better or worse. However, it has become increasingly apparent that even subtle changes in the mother’s diet, stress, and exposure to environmental toxins — including low concentrations of toxic chemicals at levels deemed safe by the EPA and FDA, such as endocrine disrupting compounds (EDC) — can dramatically impact the health of the child both in utero and postnatal.
Research has shown that these changes and environmental exposures can possibly lead to metabolic, cardiovascular, immunological, neurobehavioral disorders, and increased risk for cancer, obesity, and type II diabetes, to list just a few examples. This concept is known as Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD). However, how exactly do changes to the in utero and postnatal environment lead to such potentially adverse effects on the developing child? That’s primarily attributed to the epigenome, or the biologic mechanisms that regulate the switching on and off of genes or disrupting the expression of their protein products. To put it simply, a pregnant woman’s diet, stress, and environmental exposures can affect the pattern of gene expression in the developing fetus. Although research in this area is still developing, it has so far been shown that a pregnant woman experiencing high stress, poor diet, metabolic disorders, and exposure to toxins can result in disturbances in the normal epigenome that may manifest as increased risk for various later health disorders. Alternatively, pregnant women and those seeking to become pregnant can take steps, including improved dietary and exercise habits and minimizing their exposure to environmental chemicals, to help sculpt the later health of their sons and daughters.
The Epigenome and Developmental Origins of Health and Disease is a forthcoming book edited by Cheryl S. Rosenfeld, DVM, PhD, Associate Professor of Biomedical Sciences at the Christopher S. Bond Life Sciences Center of the University of Missouri, which synthesizes the existing knowledge of how the in utero environment could be the most important environment in shaping later risk for various diseases or conversely promote the health of the offspring. This book mines the existing literature from a variety of disciplines from toxicology to nutrition to epigenetics to reveal how contrasting maternal in utero environmental changes might be leading to epigenetic convergence and resulting deleterious phenotypic and physiological effects in our offspring.
On September 22nd, 2015, Dr. Rosenfeld, along with chapter authors and leading DOHaD experts Shuk-Mei Ho, PhD, and Martha Susiarjo, PhD, will be hosting a discussion about these fascinating topics with Karin Russ, National Coordinator of the CHE Fertility and Reproductive Health working group. In addition to discussing topics explored in The Epigenome and Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, Dr.’s Rosenfeld, Ho, and Susiarjo will discuss DOHaD’s applications for education, clinical care, and potential directions for future research. The presentation is free will be given via phone, with slides distributed to participants beforehand. There will be ample time for questions and discussion as well. To join, simply register at CHE’s website (http://www.healthandenvironment.org/partnership_calls/17996).
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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.
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