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Study finds changes in fetal epigenetics throughout pregnancy
Date:4/14/2010

Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine have found that epigenetic marks on human placentas change from the first trimester of pregnancy to the third, a discovery that may allow clinicians to prevent complications in pregnancy.

The finding marks a dramatic departure from the prevailing opinion that epigenetic programming is permanently established 12 weeks after fertilization. Published in the April issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the study indicates that clinicians may be able to change the course of a pregnancy through early diagnosis and treatment.

"Our research shows that there are several 'windows of opportunity' during pregnancy to detect risks and also change pregnancy outcomes that may arise later," said the study's senior investigator, Men-Jean Lee, MD, Associate Professor, Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Science, and Preventive Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine. "We have developed an assay that can allow clinicians to diagnose problems early enough to potentially prevent conditions such as preeclampsia and fetal growth restriction."

Epigenetics generally refers to factors that modify how a gene behaves while not altering the DNA nucleotide sequence of the gene itself. The placenta contains a group of genes, known as "imprinted" genes, which regulate fetal growth. In healthy fetal development, one copy of these genes is normally active and the other copy is silent. Loss of imprinting (LOI) occurs when both sets of genes are reactivated, and is an indicator of potential complications such as preeclampsia and fetal growth restriction.

Using an LOI assay developed by James G. Wetmur, PhD, and Jia Chen, ScD, of Mount Sinai School of Medicine, the research team assessed LOI at the first trimester in 17 placentas and at full term in 14 different placentas. The surprising results showed that more LOI occurred in the first trimester than at full term.

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Contact: Mount Sinai Press Office
newsnow@mountsinai.org
212-241-9200
The Mount Sinai Hospital / Mount Sinai School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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