Fetal Epigenetics Change During Pregnancy

NEW YORK, April 15 (UPI) — U.S. medical scientists say they’ve discovered epigenetic marks on human placentas change from the first trimester of pregnancy to the third.

Scientists at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine say their discovery might allow clinicians to prevent complications in pregnancy and marks a dramatic departure from the prevailing opinion that epigenetic programming is permanently established 12 weeks after fertilization.

The researchers said the study also suggests clinicians might be able to change the course of a pregnancy through early diagnosis and treatment.

“Our research shows there are several ‘windows of opportunity’ during pregnancy to detect risks and also change pregnancy outcomes that may arise later,” Dr. Men-Jean Lee, who led the study, said. “We have developed an assay that can allow clinicians to diagnose problems early enough to potentially prevent conditions such as pre-eclampsia and fetal growth restriction.”

Lee and her team said genomic imprinting appears to be an ever-changing process in the placenta, meaning pregnancy risks can change throughout the course of gestation.

“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 pre-eclampsia or fetal growth restriction can be detected early enough in pregnancy to allow prevention of these diseases.”

The study appears in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

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