It’s been said before that health begins in the womb. That’s because the conditions we encounter in utero impact not only our well-being in infancy but throughout our entire lives. But what happens when the nutritional environment in the womb is less than favorable?
Most epigenetic studies have suggested that embryos respond to adverse environmental conditions by adjusting their gene expression. However, new research proposes something entirely different may occur. Instead of adapting to the environment, random variations in gene expression may allow some embryos a survival advantage.
In a new study published in Cell Reports, an international team of researchers investigated DNA (DNAm) signatures in early embryo to determine if selection, not plasticity, generated DNAm variation. Using a mathematical model of re-methylation, they demonstrated that a certain part of the DNAm pattern was missing among individuals that were exposed to an episode of famine.
DNA methylation a is a key epigenetic mechanism that controls gene expression. It is formed with DNA methyltransferases and removed in an intricate series of reactions facilitated by TET enzymes involving the hydroxylation of a methyl group. While there is extensive evidence linking adverse maternal exposure during early development with enduring changes in DNAm profiles of offspring, the exact mechanisms involved are not fully understood. For the most part, two alternatives are usually considered: 1) adverse in utero conditions compromise DNAm, or 2) actively revised DNAm in the embryo permits a match between its phenotype and the environment.
In this study, the scientists examined the second alternative as a possible explanation for associations made between adverse prenatal care and health issues in adulthood. They were motivated by the correlation that babies conceived during the Dutch Hunger Famine of 1944-45 suffered from poor cardiovascular health later on in life as adults. This has been attributed to epigenetic modifications or changes in gene expression that persisted throughout the survivor’s lives.
Bas Heijmans, epigeneticist at the Leiden University Medical Center and one of the authors of the study said, “We know that a lack of nutrition decreases the likelihood of an embryo to survive. Our new study indicates that surviving famine in the uterus hinged on having a DNA methylation pattern allowing continued growth of the embryo in spite of limited resources. But those same methylation patterns may have adverse health effects much later in life,”
The researchers believe that the interchange between epigenetics and embryo survival may be better explained by taking an evolutionary perspective. In evolution, random genetic variation is sorted out by natural selection and only variants that are best suited to the environment can endure. Using a computer model, the team showed that random epigenetic differences, like genetic mutations, are bound to happen. They suspect that DNAm variants occurring randomly may well increase an embryo’s likelihood for survival when the nutrient levels are low. And accordingly, those epigenetic variants may be showing up in cohorts that were exposed to famine during early gestational development.
“We have always struggled to explain how early embryos would be able to modify specific epigenetic marks in response to nutrition. It is fascinating that selective survival based on random epigenetic variation fits the data best,” says Tobias Uller, author and evolutionary biologist at Lund University.
Considering the Dutch Hunger Famine, only some of the health effects presented later in life, and the individuals exposed in early gestation were affected the most. The Dutch Hunger Winter Families study’s principal investigator L.H. Lumey, MD, epidemiologist at Columbia Mailman School said, “These findings have often been interpreted as conclusive proof of fetal adaptations in the womb that will lead to adult disease if the adult environment changes for the better. But our findings point to a different mechanism.”
While preventative prenatal measures should always be taken to minimize any adverse health effects, this study does suggest that such measures may only reduce those possibilities. It also shifts expectation about intervention programs and the ongoing discussion of blaming past generations for our own diseases. The authors believe that this particular biological mechanism, they have termed “epigenetic selection” should be further studied to better understand the underlying association of adversity in early life with poor health in adulthood.
Source: Bastiaan T. Heijmans et. al. (2018) Selective Survival of Embryos Can Explain DNA Methylation Signatures of Adverse Prenatal Environments. Cell Reports, 25 (10): 2660.
Reference: Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. “Study Uncovers Evidence of Natural Selection in the Womb”. 05 Dec. 2018 Web.
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Dr Eddy Bettermann MD focus on Biological Medicine (Biologische Medizin), Darkfield Microscopy (Dunkelfeld Mikroskopie), Orthomolecular Medicine (Orthomolekulare Medizin), Ayurvedic Medicine (Ayurveda), Psychosomatic Medicine (Psychosomatische Medizin), raw food (Rohkost), fasting (Fasten): Our primary integrative medicine goal is the maintenance of your health and wellness, and we are committed to safe and effective healthcare. Our specialties include online integrative medicine education by alternative doctor: food and allergy management through the use of Integrative medical therapy, Environmental Medicine, General Family Medicine, Ayurveda, Panchakarma, Chronic Fatigue, ADHD, autism, Fibromyalgia, Yeast/Fungus related diseases – Candidacies, mercury dental replacement and detoxification, Natural Thyroid Replacement, Weight loss, Lyme Disease, Irritable Bowel Disease, Attention Deficit Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorders, Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, Addiction related programs, Intestinal Dysbiosis, as well as trigger point therapy using Neural Therapy. Dr. Eddy Bettermann MD, physician from Germany, consultant and teacher in biological medicine, especially dark field microscopy known as Live Blood Analysis in Thailand, Malaysia, Hon Kong, Singapore and the Philippines. But he lecture also in the USA, Canada and the U.A.E. He speaks english and german. https://dreddymd.com/2017/01/17/the-interactive-live-blood-cd-and-the-certified-training-live-blood-analysis-online-course/ https://dreddymd.com/courses/ https://dreddymd.com/2017/01/17/live-blood-microscopy-analysis-darkfield-course/ “Let thy Food be thy Medicine and thy Medicine be thy Food.” — Hippocrates Physician Member of the Medical Board at AOX Singapore, Medical Doctor at Nurse Mobile Clinic and Physician at DrEddy Clinic Our Mission: The mission of the Integrative Medicine is to search for the most effective treatments for patients by combining both conventional and alternative approaches that address all aspects of health and wellness – biological, psychological, social and spiritual. Biological Medicine is a big part of my work and so is Dark field Microscopy, what I use in my daily practice and what I teach more then 15 years in Asia and around the world: Live Blood Analysis in dark field based on Haematology. We utilize Live blood analysis since 2004, conventional as well as specialty laboratories for a thorough diagnostic work up of the disease in question. Our integrative medicine treatment regimens are especially unique and are tailored specifically to the individual needs of each patient. Our Mission: don’t harm, prevent, use food as medicine We are a reliable partner for integrative medicine in Medical Spa & Clinic Development and integrative medicine Education Training for alternative doctors – we bring different holistic approaches, like Integrative Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda Medicine together. On your request we offer our service in your place as well. Heavy metal poisoning Heavy metal poisoning is much more common than most people realize, and if you’re thinking that it doesn’t apply to you because you haven’t been exposed to any, think again. If you’ve eaten fish regularly, had amalgam fillings, received vaccinations, drank contaminated water, or done industrial or agricultural work or pharmaceutical manufacturing, there’s a good chance that you have a fair amount of toxic metals in your system.. We are here to help and to educate! Wishing your health and happiness Dr Eddy Bettermann MD Protect you and your family from harmful radiation https://bit.ly/synergyscience-dreddymd More information about 5G and EMF: https://dreddymd.com/?s=5G+and+EMF View all posts by dreddymd