Stem cells could reveal secrets of illness in later life
Mums to be have known for some time that what they eat when pregnant affects their unborn child but now scientists believe that the diet of our mothers during pregnancy may even affect our predisposition to illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure in late life.
Studies with animals have shown a link between diet and the life long health of offspring but experiments with pregnant women or unborn children is clearly not possible. Researchers funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) have turned to embryonic human stem cells to provide the answers.
The scientists, led by Dr Lorraine Young at the University of Nottingham Division of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, are looking at the fundamental process of methylation. This is one of the ways that our bodies control which genes are working in which tissues and at what time by tagging some of our DNA with small chemical groups called methyl groups. The process is essential for controlling gene activity as an organism grows and develops into adulthood. Faults in this process are known to cause some rare developmental diseases but Dr Young’s group now believes that a foetus’ response to its mother’s diet could affect this process as well, leading to changes in gene activity and therefore susceptibility to illness in later life.
Dr Young said, “We are trying to identify the primary factors that influence the methylation process and which therefore might affect an unborn child’s long-term susceptibility to certain diseases in later life. We can use unspecialised stem cells to study the effect of diet on the tagging of the DNA and then induce them to develop into a cell type such a heart to see whether the effect is still there.”
The researchers are looking at nutrients such as vitamin B12, amino acids and the popular pregnancy supplement, folic acid.
Professor Julia Goodfellow, Chief Executive of BBSRC, said, “This work is clearly important as it may show how diet in the first stages of pregnancy could affect an individual’s health for the rest of their life. It could also help to inform the best conditions for children conceived using in vitro fertilization technology. We may be able to optimise the nutrient mix and levels in the culture media to give early embryonic cells the best conditions for the lifelong functioning of their DNA.”
Matt Goode | alfa
The most recent press releases about innovation >>>
Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...