BBSRC DTG Studentship: Foetal programming of cardiac health

Lead Research Organisation: Babraham Institute
Department Name: UNLISTED

Abstract

The amount of nutrition that the foetus experiences whilst in the womb (in utero) influences how it makes use of the food it receives as an adult. This is particularly important for a foetus that has been nutritionally deprived in utero, which, as a result of too much nutrition after birth develops diseases, including diabetes and high blood pressure. It has been hypothesised that this adaptive response of the organism to experience in utero is determined by changes in the expression levels of certain genes (the copying of information form DNA to RNA then often into protein). As the DNA complement of an organism cannot be changed, this alteration in gene expression is achieved by modifications of the proteins that control the structure of the DNA; i.e. Epigenetic modifications. So far, it is not known whether this foetal programming of adult health affects how the heart grows in response to increased workload or whether there is an increased risk of heart failure. In addition, it is not known if gene expression in the heart is controlled by epigenetic modifications to the DNA generated in utero. In this study, we will investigate whether rats that have been nutritionally deprived in utero are at a greater risk of developing hypertrophy (an increase in cell size without increase in cell number) and whether their myocytes (muscle cells) are more likely to undergo hypertrophic growth following exposure to a particular stress. We will then determine whether epigenetics plays a role in controlling whether nutritional experience in utero impacts upon future cardiac health.

Publications

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