Experimental studies show a substantial contribution of early life environment to cardiometabolic health and human capital, mediated in part through epigenetic processes. To identify new biomarkers and novel pathways that mediate the long-term effects of developmental influences we have exploited a discovery pathway that combines candidate and genome-wide screens for molecular and metabolomic differences at birth which are associated with childhood outcomes, followed by confirmation using sequencing and in vitro approaches.

Our active involvement in, and leadership of, international consortia and collaborations is a critical component of our programme, notably as Chair of the Science Management Group of the academic EpiGen Global Research Consortium and Chief Investigator of the Nutritional Intervention Preconception and During Pregnancy to Maintain Healthy Glucose Metabolism and Offspring Health (NiPPeR) preconception RCT. Alongside this we partner closely with the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences, contributing to academic leadership for two major cohort studies: GUSTO (Growing Up in Singapore Towards healthy Outcomes); and S-PRESTO (Singapore PREconception Study of long-Term maternal and child Outcomes). Within EpiGen we have identified preconception, perinatal and early childhood influences on cardiometabolic health and human capital, and made significant progress in characterising the mechanisms through which the “memory” of the early life exposures is held, with long-term consequences. The Figure shows an exemplar for child obesity of the mechanisms linking exposures with later risk – foremost among the mechanisms are epigenetic processes, with emerging evidence for a role of the microbiome and other processes. Together, our work demonstrates a significant prenatal etiological component to human capital and child health that could be influenced, positively or negatively, by maternal interventions to reduce cardiometabolic risk and human capital.

Programme Leaders:

  • Professor Keith Godfrey
  • Professor Karen Lillycrop
  • Professor Nicholas Harvey
  • Professor Cyrus Cooper
  • Professor Janis Baird
  • Professor Hazel Inskip
  • Early biomarkers of cardiovascular disease

  • Gestational diabetes and offspring obesity

  • Maternal nutrition and insulin resistance

  • Healthy ageing and sarcopenia – Hertfordshire Sarcopenia Study extension (HSSe)