Insights into mechanisms and prevention
Healthy ageing starts before conception and is further determined during embryonic and fetal life. Growth and development of the future adult is affected by genetic and epigenetic programming of gametes and preimplantation embryos.
The “Barker Hypothesis” suggests that several diseases in adulthood such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, lung disease and possibly psychiatric vulnerability have their origin during pregnancy.
Lifestyle and environmental factors impact
An unfavorable intra-uterine environment can be caused by lifestyle factors such as drug exposure, alcohol consumption, smoking, unhealthy diet, overweight and chronic psychological stress and may lead to changes that can have a permanent impact on the structure, function, physiology and metabolism of the placenta and the fetus.
Potentially unfavorable environments affect fetal organ development and gene expression and result in an adult with a greater susceptibility to the development of chronic disease later in life.
Impact on mother
Not only the future child has an increased risk of health problems, but also the mother who has pre-existing diseases or who develops pregnancy-related diseases such as pre-eclampsia is at increased risk for health problems in the future, i.e. hypertension, diabetes cardiovascular- and renal disease.
Mechanisms of change in placental function and maternal physiology
Investigating mechanisms and factors that are responsible for changes in placental function and maternal physiology can help us to understand the changes that occur in the fetus and the future adult, and the mother.
Cohort studies, follow up studies of interventions prior to pregnancy or during pregnancy, as well as animal experimental models within our ROAHD programme will help to elucidate both associations and pathophysiological mechanisms.