It is no surprise that parents leave an indelible mark on their children starting with the moment they are born. From the right environment to the best books, every single parenting decision counts. In recent years, we have come to understand that, the effects of our choices start affecting a child even when in utero.
The single biggest impact that parents have is the genetic information-the genomic DNA, which they pass on to their children. However, there are other kinds of genetic information contained in a cell, specifically mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA). When it comes to the inheritance of this DNA, housed in the powerhouse of the cell, it is the mother who rules the roost.
In 1987, a global survey of mtDNA which revealed that all mitochondrial DNA originated from a single woman in Africa about 200,000 years ago was published in the reputed international Journal Nature. The mtDNA, passed on exclusively from the mother to the offspring as well as mitochondrial function, is crucial for child health and survival.
A team, led by researchers at the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Research Institute have recently discovered that obese female mice have eggs that exhibit a variety of stress and lead to offspring that are heavy and have low amount of kidney and liver mtDNA after IVF suggesting that obesity inhibits the transmission of crucial genetic information to the child as well as causing inherent metabolic syndromes. Apart from revealing how the mice passes on obesity-related damage from mother to offspring, they have also shown how it could be reversed.
“Once we had identified the type of stress involved, we used compounds known to alleviate that stress in the cells. In particular, we were interested in compounds that are also being tested in diabetes clinical trials,” lead author from the Robinson research institute Associate Professor Robker says. “These compounds were highly successful in preventing the stress response, thereby stopping the damage from obesity being passed onto the offspring. It restored egg quality, embryo development and mitochondrial DNA to levels equivalent to those of a healthy mother. Effectively, the problem was fully reversed.”
The work is purported to be used as therapy to restore the fertility levels of obese women and reduce the deleterious effects on the offspring. The researchers hope to reiterate the importance of maternal health and nutrition prior to getting pregnant on the child’s health and metabolism.
The original publication can be accessed here.