Epigenetics and the Fetal Origins of Adult Health and Disease

  • Lawrence D. Longo
Part of the Perspectives in Physiology book series (PHYSIOL, volume 1)


Growth and development of the embryo and fetus, once the interest of only a minority of clinicians and public health officials, currently commands the attention of all concerned with the prevalence of a wide array of medical disorders in the adult. These include: diabetes and related metabolic syndrome, coronary artery disease, hypertension, schizophrenia and other neuropsychiatric diseases, as well as cancer and other conditions. As knowledge of human development has increased, evidence has amassed that the foundations for much of our life as adults, are established in our mother’s womb prior to birth. During the past several decades both a number of epidemiologic studies in humans and mechanistic-based experiments in laboratory animals, have given rise to the hypothesis of the “Developmental Origins of Health and Disease” (DOHaD) (Barker et al. 1993; Gluckman et al. 2008). Although much of the evidence is compelling, nonetheless controversy exists as to the basis for many of the associations drawn (Ben-Shlomo and Kuh 2002; Joseph and Kramer 1996; Kramer and Joseph 1996). Of particular relevance in this regard is nutrition. Commonly, we think of famine as a topic of the distant past or of malnutrition as being of limited scope (Delisle 2008). However, with the ever increasing population on the planet, limited resources, rise in commodity prices, and the role of politics in human well-being, the issue of proper nutrition or the lack thereof is a world-wide problem, and its relation to health and disease is of considerable relevance to biomedical scientists and members of the healing profession (Fig. 11.1).


Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Fetal Origin Ponderal Index Spastic Diplegia Ridge Count 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© American Physiological Society 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lawrence D. Longo
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Perinatal BiologyLoma Linda University School of MedicineLoma LindaUSA

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