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The University of Southampton

Southampton scientists announce research partnership with Nestlé Research Center

Published: 22 November 2011

Leading medical scientists from the University of Southampton and Medical Research Council, along with a consortium of leading international researchers, have launched a research collaboration with the Nestlé Research Center to investigate ways of improving maternal and child health during pregnancy.

The scientists are part of an international alliance, called the EpiGen Consortium, and are experts in the field of epigenetics, or the study of how our diet can influence the genes and health of future generations. The team will collaborate with the Nestlé’s Research Center and Nestlé Nutrition, based in Switzerland, to discover the optimal nutritional balance for pregnant mothers and babies, and give them the best chance of good health throughout their life. The ultimate goal of the programme is to produce maternal and infant health recommendations, supported by robust science. All research conducted at the University of Southampton is independent.

"It is wonderful to see the internationally renowned cohort resources developed and maintained by the Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit at the University being utilised in this manner, to address the links between early development and later body composition," comments Professor Cyrus Cooper from the Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit at the University of Southampton.

The EpiGen Consortium also includes researchers from AgResearch Limited; Auckland UniServices Limited; Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR); and National University of Singapore.

The partnership brings together scientists from both the public and private sectors to improve human health through the application of epigenetic tools and technologies.

The research will rely on epigenetics, the biology of understanding how gene function is regulated by environmental factors, such as maternal nutrition, during the very early stages of development. EpiGen will contribute its expertise in this emerging scientific field, while the Nestlé Research Center will contribute its outstanding knowledge of maternal and infant nutrition.

“This important collaboration will build on the ongoing research conducted by Nestlé scientists in the field of metabolic programming to formulate the best nutritional products for mothers and their infants,” says Prof Peter van Bladeren, Vice President of Nestlé Science & Research. “The comprehensive knowledge of EpiGen researchers combined with Nestlé’s scientific expertise will bring epigenetics to the forefront in the understanding of early nutrition for the promotion of health throughout life."

“If we are to improve the health of women and children we need effective partnerships between academia and the private sector, as it is clear that good nutrition at the beginning of life is a key factor in determining metabolic health. This international partnership is based on cutting edge science of the highest quality with each party bringing unique expertise to focus on this important subject,” adds Prof Sir Peter Gluckman, Managing Scientist for the EpiGen Consortium.

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