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The University of Southampton

Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD)

The DOHaD Centre
The DOHaD Centre

Southampton is leading research into how the environment during human development contributes to the risk of developing chronic disease later in life. 

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 (the first 1000 days - from conception to two years). 

Our research shows that increased risk of developing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) can be passed from one generation to the next by biological mechanisms that are not just genetic. NCDs include type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic lung and kidney disease, and some forms of cancer and mental ill-health, and account for more than 70 per cent of deaths globally each year. 80 per cent of these deaths occur in low-middle income countries and have enormous humanitarian, social and financial consequences, as well as effects on future health. 

In DOHaD at Southampton, we work across disciplines of epidemiology, clinical nutrition trials, periconceptional medicine, developmental physiology and child health, stem cells, epigenetics, neuroscience, and asthma and allergy. We 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 findings reveal that that exposure of a father to harmful environments and unhealthy behaviours can also increase the risk of his children developing NCDs through epigenetic effects on the sperm and other social factors. 

We work closely with staff from across Medicine and the wider University who are affiliated with the three core centres of excellence at MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, NIHR Biomedical Research Centre and the Institute of Developmental Sciences to achieve our key aims: 

Centres of Excellence for DOHaD
Centres of Excellence for DOHaD

Research groups

Human Development and Physiology Research Group

Education opportunities

MRes in Stem Cells

MRes in Stem Cells, Development Regenerative Medicine Research into early development and stem cells

MSc Allergy

Preparing to meet the global rise in the number of people suffering from allergic diseases    

Partnerships and Collaborations


Institute for Life Sciences

International DOHaD Society 

EU Lifecycle 

International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics

EpiGen Global Research Consortium

United Nations Global Compact 

World Health Organization


News and Events

Widening participation events 

Question Time events 

Fake Food event 

Public engagement activities




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