Stéphanie Bayol and Neil Stickland at the Royal Veterinary College, London fed female rats a “junk food” diet of crisps, cheese, muffins and other processed foods throughout pregnancy and lactation.
The offspring, who were overweight at birth, were born with a taste for junk-food themselves. But even when fed a healthy diet, the junk-food babies had a host of medical problems that lasted beyond adolescence into adulthood.
The rats had raised cholesterol and triglyceride levels – both associated with heart disease. Insulin and glucose in the blood were also unusually high, known to be a cause of type-2 diabetes. And the rats remained significantly podgier than normal with extra fat around the kidneys, another diabetes risk-factor.
The female offspring were particularly badly affected, expressing high levels of glucose and the appetite-promoting hormone leptin making them very prone to obesity.
"It seems that a mother's diet whilst pregnant and breastfeeding is very important for the long term health of her child," says Dr Bayol. “This does not mean that obesity and poor health is inevitable and it is important that we take care of ourselves and live a healthy lifestyle. But it does mean that mothers must eat responsibly whilst pregnant."
But will these results translate to humans? Very probably, says Professor Stickland. "Humans share a number of fundamental biological systems with rats, so there is good reason to assume the effects we see in rats may be repeated in humans," he says. "Our research certainly tallies with epidemiological studies linking children's weight to that of their parents."
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Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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