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

Lee and her team concluded that genomic imprinting appears to be an ever-changing process in the placenta, meaning that pregnancy risks can change throughout the course of gestation. Previously, the medical community believed imprints remained static after 12 weeks. This same Mount Sinai research team had also previously discovered that the epigenetic marks in placentas from pregnancies with preeclampsia and fetal growth restriction were different from normal pregnancies at full term.

"Ours is the first study to examine LOI in the first trimester and compare it to that of full-term placentas," Dr. Lee said. "Now that we know the epigenetic make-up in the placenta changes during the course of a pregnancy, we can develop biomarkers to see if those pregnancies destined to develop preeclampsia or fetal growth restriction can be detected early enough in pregnancy to allow prevention of these diseases."

An estimated 10 percent of pregnancies are complicated by fetal growth restriction, which increases the risk of stillbirth, cerebral palsy, feeding intolerance, and failure to thrive. Preeclampsia, a condition characterized by high blood pressure and swelling during pregnancy, affects between 7 and 10 percent of pregnant women.

"More research is necessary to determine the impact of this discovery on potentially reducing the risk of other serious conditions like autism, cancer, and childhood obesity," said Dr. Lee.


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