During 2010/2011 UKTIS with Newcastle University initiated and led on a collaborative project to improve understanding of the molecular mechanisms that orchestrate gene expression during fetal development. This work aims to identify epigenomic signatures during development and then to further interrogate these signatures in relation to exposures known to influence pregnancy outcomes (e.g. potential teratogens, maternal obesity). The ultimate goals are twofold;
To define epigenetic signatures that may have clinical utility as early biomarkers of exposure and thus assist in more accurate and specific risk prediction and counselling.
To increase our understanding of the molecular mechanisms occurring in fetal development and thus the pathogenesis of health problems later in the lifecourse that have antecedents in utero, therefore informing appropriate interventions.
An NIHR FSF grant and Newcastle Healthcare Charity award have been secured to fund the pilot work necessary to establish reference epigenetic signatures. It is hoped that this work will generate preliminary data that will underpin further funding applications and collaborations.