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Evidence in support of the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD) hypothesis has reached the level where it can appropriately be used to inform practice. DOHaD informed interventions supporting primary noncommunicable disease risk reduction should target the pre- and periconceptional periods, pregnancy, lactation, childhood and adolescence. Such interventions are dependent on a health workforce (including dietitians, nurses, midwives, doctors, and nutrition teachers), that has a deep understanding of DOHaD concepts. This study assessed development of awareness of DOHaD concepts during undergraduate health professional training programs. Using a cross-sectional design, a standardized questionnaire was completed by Year 1–4 undergraduate students studying nutrition in Japan (n=309) and Year 1–3 nursing students in New Zealand (n=151). On entry to undergraduate study, most students had no awareness of the terms ‘DOHaD’ or ‘First 1000 Days’. While awareness reached 60% by Year 3 in courses that included DOHaD-related teaching, this remains inadequate. More than 95% of Year 1 undergraduates in both countries demonstrated an appreciation of associations between maternal nutrition and fetal health. However, awareness of associations between parental health status and/or nutritional environment and later-life health was low. While levels of awareness increased across program years, overall awareness was less than optimal. These results indicate evidence of some focus on DOHaD-related content in curricula. We argue that DOHaD principles should be one pillar around which health training curricula are built. This study indicates a need for the DOHaD community to engage with faculties in curriculum development.
An adverse early life environment can increase the risk of metabolic and other disorders later in life. Genetic variation can modify an individual’s susceptibility to these environmental challenges. These gene by environment interactions are important, but difficult, to dissect. The nucleus is the primary organelle where environmental responses impact directly on the genetic variants within the genome, resulting in changes to the biology of the genome and ultimately the phenotype. Understanding genome biology requires the integration of the linear DNA sequence, epigenetic modifications and nuclear proteins that are present within the nucleus. The interactions between these layers of information may be captured in the emergent spatial genome organization. As such genome organization represents a key research area for decoding the role of genetic variation in the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease.
Since its debut in a ground-breaking report by Barker and Osmond in 1986, the concept of the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD) has been further developed in several aspects. Its methodology and conclusions relating to proposed origins and outcomes of early life events have been developing and spreading internationally. Indeed, the DOHaD concept now seems to have influenced many fields of research. This article aims to briefly review why the DOHaD concept is important in biomedical science, how it has developed, is currently developing, and how it should develop in future.
There is substantial evidence of an inverse association between birth weight and later blood pressure (BP) in populations from high-income countries, but whether this applies in low-income countries, where causes of low birth weight are different, is not certain. Objective: We conducted a review of the evidence on the relationship between birth weight and BP among African children and adolescents. Medline, EMBASE, Global Health and Web of Science databases were searched for publications to October 2016. Papers reporting the relationship between birth weight and BP among African children and adolescents were assessed. Bibliographies were searched for further relevant publications. Selected papers were summarized following the preferred reporting items for systematic review and meta-analysis (PRISMA) guidelines. In total, 16 papers from 13 studies conducted in nine African countries (Nigeria, Republic of Seychelles, Gambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, South Africa, Algeria, Zimbabwe and Angola) were reviewed. Eight studies were cohorts, while five were cross-sectional. The relationship between birth weight and later BP varied with age of the participants. Studies in neonates showed a consistently positive association, while predominantly inverse associations were seen among children, and studies in adolescents were inconsistent. Based on the limited number of studies identified, the relationship between birth weight and later BP may vary with age in African children and adolescents. Not all studies adequately controlled for confounding, notably gender or age. Whether the inverse relationship between birth weight and BP in later life observed in Western settings is also seen in Africa remains unclear.
Placental structure and function determine birth outcomes. Placental mass does not always correlate with fetal birth weight (BW) in uncomplicated pregnancies which raises the possibility of other variables such as placental shape and cord insertion being the determinants of placental efficiency. In total, 160 women with singleton pregnancy, recruited into a pregnancy cohort were studied. Placental weight (PW) was measured and other data were obtained from clinical records. Birth outcomes were classified as small for gestational age (SGA) and appropriate for gestational age (AGA) based on fetal gender, gestational age (GA) and BW. High-resolution images of the chorionic plate were recorded. The shape of the placenta and the insertion of the cord were measured using eccentricity index (EI) and cord centrality index (CCI). Only placentae with eccentrically inserted cords (n=136) were included. The mean BW and PW were 2942 (±435) g and 414 (±82) g with average GA of 38.6 weeks. The mean CCI and EI was 0.483 (±0.17) and 0.482 (±0.16). Neither of these correlated with placental efficiency. However, EI showed negative correlation with placental surface area and breadth. Upon sub-grouping the cohort into SGA (n=32) and AGA (n=104), the SGA babies with the highest EI (third tertile) had significantly lower BW than those with the least eccentric placentae (first tertile). Although eccentric-shaped placentae were present in both SGA and AGA groups, the effect on BW was observed only in the SGA group.
The effect of maternal Ramadan-type fasting (RTF) on the outcome of pregnancy, kidney development and nephron number in male rat offspring was investigated in current study. Pregnant rats were given food and water ad libitum during pregnancy (control) or restricted for 16 h per day (RTF). Kidney structure was examined during fetal life, at birth, and in early and late adulthood. Maternal body weight, food intake, relative food intake and plasma glucose levels were significantly lower (P<0.001) in the RTF group. Litter and pup weights also were significantly lower (P<0.05) in the RTF group at birth, with no difference in the litter size. The RTF group had a longer gestation, delayed nephrogenesis with less well-differentiated glomeruli, more connective tissue, fewer medullary rays, an increase in the nephrogenic zone/cortical zone ratio, and significant increase (P<0.001) in kidney apoptosis at birth. On the other hand, maternal fasting reduced nephron number (by ~31%) with unchanged kidney and total glomerular volumes. Mean glomerular volume was significantly higher in RTF offspring. Assessment of renal structure revealed mild glomerulosclerosis with enlarged lobulated glomeruli in the renal cortex and high interstitial fibrosis in the medulla of RTF kidneys. Taken together, gestational fasting delays nephrogenesis and reduces nephron number in the kidneys of the offspring, that could be partially owing to increased apoptosis.
Several studies have suggested that maternal lifestyle during pregnancy may influence long-term health of offspring by altering the offspring epigenome. Whether maternal leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) during pregnancy might have this effect is unknown. The purpose of this study was to determine the relationship between maternal LTPA during pregnancy and offspring DNA methylation. Participants were recruited from the Archive for Research on Child Health study. At enrollment, participants’ demographic information and self-reported LTPA during pregnancy were determined. High active participants (averaged 637.5 min per week of LTPA; n=14) were matched by age and race to low active participants (averaged 59.5 min per week LTPA; n=28). Blood spots were obtained at birth. Pyrosequencing was used to determine methylation levels of long interspersed nucleotide elements (LINE-1) (global methylation) and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma (PPARγ), peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma coactivator (PGC1-α), insulin-like growth factor 2 (IGF2), pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase, isozyme 4 (PDK4) and transcription factor 7-like 2 (TCF7L2). We found no differences between offspring of high active and low active groups for LINE-1 methylation. The only differences in candidate gene methylation between groups were at two CpG sites in the P2 promoter of IGF2; the offspring of low active group had significantly higher DNA methylation (74.70±2.25% methylation for low active v. 72.83±2.85% methylation for high active; P=0.045). Our results suggest no effect of maternal LTPA on offspring global and candidate gene methylation, with the exception of IGF2. IGF2 has been previously associated with regulation of physical activity, suggesting a possible role of maternal LTPA on regulation of offspring physical activity.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects ~7% of reproductive age women. Although its etiology is unknown, in animals, excess prenatal testosterone (T) exposure induces PCOS-like phenotypes. While measuring fetal T in humans is infeasible, demonstrating in utero androgen exposure using a reliable newborn biomarker, anogenital distance (AGD), would provide evidence for a fetal origin of PCOS and potentially identify girls at risk. Using data from a pregnancy cohort (The Infant Development and Environment Study), we tested the novel hypothesis that infant girls born to women with PCOS have longer AGD, suggesting higher fetal T exposure, than girls born to women without PCOS. During pregnancy, women reported whether they ever had a PCOS diagnosis. After birth, infant girls underwent two AGD measurements: anofourchette distance (AGD-AF) and anoclitoral distance (AGD-AC). We fit adjusted linear regression models to examine the association between maternal PCOS and girls’ AGD. In total, 300 mother–daughter dyads had complete data and 23 mothers reported PCOS. AGD was longer in the daughters of women with a PCOS diagnosis compared with daughters of women with no diagnosis (AGD-AF: β=1.21, P=0.05; AGD-AC: β=1.05, P=0.18). Results were stronger in analyses limited to term births (AGD-AF: β=1.65, P=0.02; AGD-AC: β=1.43, P=0.09). Our study is the first to examine AGD in offspring of women with PCOS. Our results are consistent with findings that women with PCOS have longer AGD and suggest that during PCOS pregnancies, daughters may experience elevated T exposure. Identifying the underlying causes of PCOS may facilitate early identification and intervention for those at risk.
Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) and fetal exposure to a maternal high-fat diet (HFD) independently increase the risk of developing obesity in adulthood. Excess glucocorticoids increase obesity. We hypothesized that surgically induced IUGR combined with an HFD would increase adiposity and glucocorticoids more than in non-IUGR offspring combined with the same HFD, findings that would persist despite weaning to a regular diet. Non-IUGR (N) and IUGR (I) rat offspring from dams fed either regular rat chow (R) or an HFD (H) were weaned to either a regular rat chow or an HFD. For non-IUGR and IUGR rats, this study design resulted in three diet groups: offspring from dams fed a regular diet and weaned to a regular diet (NRR and IRR), offspring rats from dams fed an HFD and weaned to a regular diet (NHR and IHR) and offspring from dams fed an HFD and weaned to an HFD (NHH and IHH). Magnetic resonance imaging or fasting visceral and subcutaneous adipose tissue collection occurred at postnatal day 60. IHH male rats had greater adiposity than NHH males, findings that were only partly normalized by weaning to a regular chow. IHH male rats had a 10-fold increase in serum corticosterone levels. IHH female rats had increased adiposity and serum triglycerides. We conclude that IUGR combined with an HFD throughout life increased adiposity, glucocorticoids and triglycerides in a sex-specific manner. Our data suggest that one mechanism through which the perinatal environment programs increased adiposity in IHH male rats may be via increased systemic glucocorticoids.
Intrauterine environmental factors can be associated with perinatal complications and long-term health outcomes although the underlying mechanisms remain poorly defined. Meconium formed exclusively in utero and passed naturally by a neonate may contain proteins which characterise the intrauterine environment. The aim of the study was proteomic analysis of the composition of meconium proteins and their classification by biological function. Proteomic techniques combining isoelectrofocussing fractionation and LC-MS/MS analysis were used to study the protein composition of a meconium sample obtained by pooling 50 serial meconium portions from 10 healthy full-term neonates. The proteins were classified by function based on the literature search for each protein in the PubMed database. A total of 946 proteins were identified in the meconium, including 430 proteins represented by two or more peptides. When the proteins were classified by their biological function the following were identified: immunoglobulin fragments and enzymatic, neutrophil-derived, structural and fetal intestine-specific proteins. Meconium is a rich source of proteins deposited in the fetal intestine during its development in utero. A better understanding of their specific biological functions in the intrauterine environment may help to identify these proteins which may serve as biomarkers associated with specific clinical conditions/diseases with the possible impact on the fetal development and further health consequences in infants, older children and adults.
The present study used a sheep model of intrauterine growth restriction, combining maternal undernutrition and twinning, to determine possible markers of early damage to the fetal kidney. The occurrence of early deviations in fetal hemodynamics which may be indicative of changes in blood perfusion was assessed by Doppler ultrasonography. A total of 24 sheep divided in two groups were fed with the same standard grain-based diet but fulfilling either their daily maintenance requirements for pregnancy (control group; n=12, six singleton and six twin pregnancies) or only the 50% of such quantity (food-restricted group; n=12; four singleton and eight twin pregnancies). All the fetuses were assessed by both B-mode and Doppler ultrasonography at Day 115 of pregnancy. Fetal blood supply was affected by maternal undernutrition, although there were still no evidences of brain-sparing excepting in fetuses at greatest challenge (twins in underfed pregnancies). However, there were early changes in the blood supply to the kidneys of underfed fetuses and underfed twins evidenced decreases in kidney size.
Early life stress has been shown to contribute to alterations in biobehavioral regulation. Whereas many different forms of childhood adversities have been studied in relation to cardiovascular outcomes, very little is known about potential associations between caregivers’ verbally aggressive behavior and heart rate and blood pressure in the child. This prospective study examined whether maternal verbally aggressive behavior in early infancy is associated with heart rate or blood pressure at age 5–6. In the Amsterdam Born Children and their Development study, a large prospective, population-based birth cohort, maternal verbally aggressive behavior was assessed by questionnaire in the 13th week after birth. The child’s blood pressure and heart rate were measured during rest at age 5–6 (n=2553 included). Maternal verbally aggressive behavior in infancy was associated with a higher systolic blood pressure (SBP) both in supine and sitting position after adjustment for sex, height and age (SBP supine B=1.01 mmHg; 95% CI [0.06; 1.95] and SPB sitting B=1.29 mmHg; 95% CI [0.12; 2.46]). Adjustment for potential confounding variables, such as other mother–infant dyad aspects, family hypertension and child’s BMI, only slightly attenuated the associations (SBP supine B=0.99 mmHg; 95% CI [0.06; 1.93] and SPB sitting B=1.11 mmHg; 95% CI [−0.06; 2.27]). Maternal verbally aggressive behavior was not associated with diastolic blood pressure or heart rate at age 5–6. Maternal verbally aggressive behavior might be an important early life stressor with negative impact on blood pressure later in life, which should be further investigated. Possible underlying mechanisms are discussed.
An inverse association between offspring birth weight (BW) and higher risk of parental cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality and morbidity has been reported. Shared environmental, genetic and intrauterine factors may be responsible for explaining these associations. We studied the role of parental CVD risk factors in the association between offspring BW and CVD mortality among mothers and fathers. All births registered in Medical Birth Registry Norway (1967–2012) were linked to three health surveys, National Educational Registry and Cause of Death Registry. Number of births with information of parental CVD risk factors available for the analyses was 1,006,557 (520,670 for mothers and 485,887 for fathers). Cox proportional hazards regression models were used, following CVD deaths in parents from 1974 to 2012. An inverse association between offspring BW and CVD mortality was observed among both parents: hazard ratio 1.60 (1.44–1.75) for mothers and 1.16 (1.10–1.23) for fathers. Among mothers, adjustment for smoking, triglycerides and diabetes reduced the risk to 1.36 (1.25–1.52), 1.57 (1.43–1.73) and 1.58 (1.43–1.79), respectively. Adjustment for diastolic blood pressure (DBP) and systolic blood pressure (SBP) both reduced the risk to 1.53 (1.37–1.66). Among fathers, adjustments for smoking, DBP, SBP reduced the risk to 1.08 (1.02–1.15), 1.13 (1.06–1.19) and 1.14 (1.08–1.22), respectively. Triglycerides and diabetes both reduced the risk to 1.15 (1.09–1.12). Our results indicate that shared environmental factors might be important in the association. A stronger association in mothers suggest that intrauterine factors also are at play.