[Cite as http://purl.org/au-research/grants/nhmrc/465403]
Prof Michelle Lane
Prof Stefan Hiendleder
Dr Megan Mitchell
Brief description We know that our health as adults is influenced by the lifestyle of our mothers during pregnancy. In particular, increased risk of adult-onset diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease occurs when small and lean infants at birth are raised in conditions where nutrient intake is not restricted and obesity occurs. This concept of fetal programming is now widely accepted. Our laboratory is leading research in a new concept, that of embryonic programming. We have extensive animal data demonstrating that exposure of embryos to physiological perturbations alters fetal development, similarly to that occurring in nutrient restriction during pregnancy. Furthermore, there is data from IVF-derived children that their birth-weight is lower than expected, possibly due to the conditions used for conception in the laboratory. How does the response by eggs and embryos, at the time of conception, affect subsequent development? There has been some focus on changes to DNA that are not related to mutations, but structural changes in the DNA that alters gene expression. We call this epigenetics and epigenetic changes are found in embryos, including human embryos following IVF. However, no one knows how such epigenetic changes occur as a result of this stress response by the egg or embryo. Our proposal is to determine the mechanism of how epigenetic alterations take place in eggs and embryos. Our theory is that the mitochondria, the energy producing packages within all cells, are sending signals to the embryo's nucleus. When the egg or embryo finds itself in adverse conditions, the signals change as a result of changes in the energy balance. This in turn changes the activity of enzymes in the nucleus that regulates DNA structure. If we can prove that this relationship occurs, then we can assess these changes in human embryos that are excess to a patient's requirements and learn if programming takes place in human embryos.
Funding Amount $AUD 551,321.54
Funding Scheme NHMRC Project Grants
Standard Project Grant