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Maternal obesity during pregnancy may lead to changes in placental DNA methylation

28 July 2023

Maternal obesity during pregnancy is known to be associated with an increased risk of chronic diseases in the offspring. Epigenetic mechanisms (those that regulate gene expression), such as DNA methylation, can influence fetal development and metabolic programming.

DNA methylation is a chemical modification of certain areas of DNA (the genetic material inside our cells) that helps control which genes should be activated or inactivated for the proper functioning of our body.

The Maternal-Fetal Metabolic Research Group of IDIBGI, led by Dr. Judit Bassols, has published a study in the journal Obesity (Silver Spring) addressing this issue. The study analyzed the global DNA methylation profile in 24 placental samples and identified 104 regions with methylation changes related to weight gain during pregnancy. Of these regions, four of them were selected for study in a larger number of placenta samples, specifically 90. Once studied, their relationship with the metabolic status of the children at six years of age was examined.

The research team of the study, with predoctoral researcher Ariadna Gómez as first author, concluded that the methylation of these four selected regions in the placenta was related to alterations in obesity parameters in their offspring, women who had gained excessive weight during pregnancy. Some of the parameters analyzed were weight, body mass index or visceral fat.

Finally, the study suggests that maternal obesity during pregnancy could induce changes in the DNA methylation profile of the placenta, and these could have an impact on the metabolism of the offspring, thus increasing the risk of metabolic disorders.

The article was carried out in collaboration with researchers from the University of Girona, the Sant Joan de Déu Research Institute, CIBERDEM and the University of Leuven.

Reference article: Gómez-Vilarrubla A, Mas-Parés B, Carreras-Badosa G, Xargay-Torrent S, Prats-Puig A, Bonmatí-Santané A, de Zegher F, Ibañez L, López-Bermejo A, Bassols J. Placental epigenetic marks related to gestational weight gain reveal potential genes associated with offspring obesity parameters. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2023 Jul;31(7):1903-1912. Epub 2023 Jun 14. PMID: 37313637.

DOI: 10.1002/oby.23780.

Study co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) "A way of making Europe".


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