Scientific evidence clearly indicates that ageing and health in adult life is programmed by genetic and epigenetic mechanisms early in life. Developmental plasticity in response to the environment, including nutrient availability, of mammalian embryos indicates the capacity for newly emerging embryonic and extraembryonic cell lineages to initiate compensatory responses which may attune nutrient delivery to the needs of the developing fetus. EpiHealthNet will focus on these early events in several relevant models (diabetes, obesity and assisted reproductive technologies (ART)), using human samples, stem cell lines, animal models and data mining/bioinformatics tools to decipher some of the most important pathways and to offer options for early intervention to avoid adverse health effects.
Main goal of the project is to improve health of the human population by understanding the mechanisms and pathways in early development, with special emphasis on epigenetic changes and developmentally relevant metabolic signalling, which create biological variation and have a long term effect on the health of individuals across their lifespan.
Specific goals include:
i) Identification of the main genetic pathways affecting the health of the developing embryos in a diabetic or obese maternal environment;
ii) Identification of the main genetic and metabolic pathways affected and epigenomic and imprinting perturbations from mouse and human ART resulting in altered health of the progeny;
iii) Discovery of the key genes and pathways affecting epigenetic and imprinting sensitivity in early stages of development in order to create intervention tools against epigenetic mis-programming;
iv) Linking for the first time by bioinformatic tools the longevity-related pathways and those susceptible to early epigenetic perturbations in order to explain how early events influence the health and lifespan of individuals;
v) Studying the possibilities of early intervention by controlling the maternal environment.