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The University of Southampton

Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD)

Baby bump

Research in the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD) shows that environmental factors can affect the development of the next generation even before conception and can continue throughout pregnancy and into early childhood.

Southampton research has shown an increased risk of developing non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, can be passed from one generation to the next by biological mechanisms that are not just genetic.

NCDs account for more than 70 per cent of deaths globally, 80 per cent of which occur in low-middle income countries and have enormous humanitarian, social and financial consequences, as well as effects on future health.

Building on its successful track record of research into DOHaD, researchers at the Institute of Developmental Sciences, are pioneering new studies to explore how aspects of parents' diet and behaviour such as nutrition, smoking, unhealthy alcohol use, stress and exposure to some environmental chemicals and toxicants, can affect gene expression by epigenetic processes and alter the characteristics of developing offspring, increasing risk of NCDs.

Our research cuts across the disciplines of epidemiology, clinical nutrition trials, periconceptional medicine, developmental physiology and child health, stem cells, epigenetics, neuroscience, and asthma and allergy.

Developmental Physiology and Periconceptional Medicine

Working with our DOHaD researchers, the MRC LEC, global nutrition and health groups, the Developmental Physiology group leads mechanistic studies into how the developmental environment contributes to risk of chronic disease later in life. This work is complemented by studies of epigenetic programming in development.

Faculty researchers focusing on periconceptional medicine, undertake interdisciplinary research developing nano-therapeutics and medical biosensors to understand the biology of endometrium and endometrial associated pathology (endometriosis and adhesions). The Placental Biology Group studies nutrient transport mechanisms across the placenta including development of computational models of placental function.

Human genetics and medical genomics

The Faculty of Medicine has a distinguished history of human genetics and medical genomics research. From the pioneering work of Professor Patricia Jacobs FRS at the Wessex Regional Genetics Laboratory on chromosome abnormalities to the establishment Wessex Genomic Medicine Centre, there is a broad research program in genetic medicine taking place.

Our world-leading Human Genetics and Genomic Medicine group has made key discoveries in single gene disorders and disorders of imprinting through to identification of genetic factors influencing common disease such as cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and asthma. Additionally, our research has improved the clinical application of genomic technology for molecular diagnosis and treatment support optimisation of cancer treatment; and functional genomics is now used to assess variant pathogenicity including research groups focussing on RNA splicing and ciliopathies.

The Centre for Human Development Stem Cells and Regeneration (CHDSR)

The Centre for Human Development Stem Cells and Regeneration (CHDSR) has an international reputation for fundamental research into early development and stem cells, together with applied translational research. The Centre’s interdisciplinary research harnesses the translational strength of the University together with an innovative Stem Cell PhD programme. Research themes include early embryo development; tissue stem cells in bone, brain, cancer, and eye; mathematical modelling of stem cell fate; and bioengineering and tissue regeneration.

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