How A Pregnant Woman’s Choices Could Shape A Child’s Health

How A Pregnant Woman’s Choices Could Shape A Child’s Health
September 23, 2013

There’s growing evidence that epigenetics is critical in determinin g a child’s risk of developing problems ranging from autism to diabetes, says Dani Fallin, who studies the genetics of mental disorders at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Much of what’s known about the epigenetics of pregnancy comes from experiments with mice, specifically a group of genetically identical agouti mice.
When these mice are exposed to certain chemicals or put on a special diet during pregnancy, it switches on the agouti gene in their offspring.
That causes the pups to produce a lot of agouti protein, which turns their fur a striking yellow.

The agouti protein also prevents these mice from feeling full, no matter how much they eat, Murphy says.
“So they become very obese and are predisposed to developing diabetes and cancer,” she says

But the results of epigenetic changes don’t necessarily appear at birth or even during childhood.
That’s because things that affect development very early in life can show up decades later, she says.

“At specific places, we see differences in the brains from the autistic children,” she says. “That’s important because those particular genes may give us a clue about what’s being turned on and off differently in autistic children.”


Epigenetic influence and disease.
Nature Education, 2008. 1(1)
Simmons, D.

H3K4me3 Breadth Is Linked to Cell Identity and Transcriptional Consistency
Cell, 158(3): 673–688, 31 July 2014
journalistic version:


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