TCU Place 35 -22nd St. East, Saskatoon, SK    

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Dr. Susan Ozanne
British Heart Foundation, University of Cambridge
Cambridge, UK
Epigenetics: Neonatal Environment and Nutrition
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
11:00 - 11:30 am

Programming is used to describe the process whereby a stimulus or insult applied at a critical period of development results in long-term effects on the structure or function of an organism. Over the last 20 years immense interest in programming has been prompted by results of epidemiological studies showing a relationship between low birth weight and type 2 diabetes and the metabolic syndrome. Compelling evidence suggests that early environmental factors such as early nutrition play an important role in mediating these relationships. Studies of individuals exposed in utero to a period of famine have shown a direct relationship between maternal nutrition and glucose tolerance in the adult offspring. Further support for the importance of the fetal environment has come from studies of monozygotic twins who were discordant for type 2 diabetes. These revealed that the diabetic twins had significantly lower birth weights than their non-diabetic co-twins. Animal models have been developed to investigate the mechanisms linking the early environment to future disease susceptibility. The most extensively studied is the maternal low protein model where rats are fed a low (8 %) protein diet during pregnancy and lactation. Offspring have a low birth weight and undergo an age-dependent loss of glucose tolerance. This is associated with pancreatic ß cell dysfunction and insulin resistance. The latter is associated with changes in expression of key insulin-signalling proteins in muscle and adipocytes. Similar changes are observed in muscle and adipose tissue from low birth weight young men. These differences occur prior to the development of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, thus may be molecular markers of early growth restriction and disease risk. The molecular mechanisms by which a phenomenon that occurs in utero has phenotypic consequences years later are only just starting to emerge and are thought to involve epigenetic modifications.
photo of Grapham Plastow
Dr Susan Ozanne is a British Heart Senior Fellow in the Institute of Metabolic Science Metabolic Research Laboratories and a Fellow of Churchill College, both at the University of Cambridge, U.K. She obtained a first class honours degree in Biochemistry from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland and then her PhD at the University of Cambridge in 1994. Before being appointed to her current post was she a Diabetes U.K. R.D. Lawrence Fellow, a Wellcome Trust Career Development Fellow and a British Heart Foundation Lecturer. Her research interests are focused on understanding the mechanistic basis of the relationship between poor early growth and subsequent risk of disease. Initially her work was directed towards understanding how low birth weight increased risk of type 2 diabetes, however her programme of work has now expanded to include the link between maternal diet, obesity and premature death. Her research group works on animal models of intrauterine growth restriction as well as on biopsy material from low birth weight humans. Dr Ozanne is the author of over 90 peer-reviewed full papers on the early origins of adult disease and is a member of the council of the Society for the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease.