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The University of Southampton
Biological Sciences

Research project: EpiHealthNet: Environment during periconceptional development, due to diabetes, obesity or assisted reproductive technologies, and altered health during ageing

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Effects of assisted conception treatments on embryo development and health into adulthood.

Mouse blastocyst
Mouse blastocyst

Scientific evidence clearly indicates that ageing and health in adult life are programmed by genetic and epigenetic mechanisms early in life. The working hypothesis of the current proposal is (1) that the critical "window" for this programming is during peri-conception oocyte and embryo development and that (2) molecular pathways involved in embryo metabolic and stress adaptation (insulin/IGF, mTOR) restrict health and longevity in adult life.

The developmental plasticity in response to environmental cues, such as nutrient availability, of mammalian embryos indicates the capacity for newly emerging embryonic and extra-embryonic cell lines to initiate compensatory responses that attune nutrient delivery to the needs of the developing fetus. Developmental programming effects that accrue during pre-implantation embryogenesis across species, including man, make it imperative to investigate in detail the mechanisms that protect against increased disease risk. EpiHealthNet will focus on these early events in relevant models (diabetes, obesity and assisted reproductive technologies (ART)), using human material, stem cell lines, animal models and data mining/bioinformatics tools to decipher the most important pathways and to offer options for early intervention to avoid adverse health effects; this inter- and multidisciplinary is in excellent accordance with the call. Better knowledge on developmental programming with respect to lifestyle-related diseases (diabetes and obesity pandemics) will allow linking of human development with the ageing process, based on better understanding of underlying biology, and can realistically be expected to become the most important route towards disease prevention and suppression to facilitate healthy ageing in the 21st century.

Funding: EU FP7 ITN ‘EpiHealthNet'
Funding duration: Nov 2013 - Nov 2017

Related research groups

Biomedical Sciences
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