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Drug Discov Today. 2011 Dec;16(23-24):1007-18. doi: 10.1016/j.drudis.2011.09.008. Epub 2011 Sep 16.

Epigenetic mechanisms in developmental programming of adult disease.

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Center for Perinatal Biology, Division of Pharmacology, Department of Basic Sciences, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda, CA 92350, USA.


Adverse insults during intrauterine life can result in permanent changes in the physiology and metabolism of the offspring, which in turn leads to an increased risk of disease in adulthood. This is an adaptational response by the fetus to changes in the environmental signals that it receives during early life to ensure its survival and prepare itself for postnatal life. Increasing evidence suggests that the epigenetic regulation of gene expression patterns has a crucial role in the developmental programming of adult disease. This review summarizes recent studies of epigenetic mechanisms and focuses particularly on studies that explore identifiable epigenetic biomarkers in the promoters of specific disease-associated genes. Such biomarkers would enable early recognition of children who might be at risk of developing adult disease with fetal origins.

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