Developmental Programming of Health and Disease

Developmental Programming of Health and Disease Research Group

Early life programming of adult disease: mechanisms and interventions

Bovine spermatozoa fluorescently labelled with two dyes

Key aims and expertise

Our main aim is to investigate how early life events, in utero and post-natal, influence health and well-being in adult life.  The 'developmental origins of adult health and disease' hypothesis is based on an inverse relationship between birth weight and adult disease.  Our work aims to address how nutritional and/or other environmental perturbation during pregnancy may underpin a greater susceptibility to non-communicable disease in adulthood.

Current projects

  1. Investigating the mechanism by which protein-energy malnutrition alters fetal kidney development to influence risk of chronic kidney disease in the offspring. (Gardner) 
  2. Determining how maternal consumption of a Westernised diet may alter fetal and neonatal growth trajectories to influence their blood pressure later in life. (Gardner) 
  3. Studying the interaction between an adult obesogenic environment superimposed on maternal protein-energy malnutrition. (Gardner)  
  4. Effects of altered nutrient intake in the Heifer on development and well-being of the offspring. Specifically how restricting protein pre-conception or during the first and second thirds of gestation, alters growth, development and function of the offspring. (Perry) 
  5. Investigating the impact of increased protein or fat in the maternal diet on hepatic, muscle and adipose tissue function in the offspring. (Mostyn) 
  6. Determining how breed specific adipose and hepatic tissue differences may improve offspring survival in pigs. (Mostyn) 

Significant results

  • Researchers at Nottingham have generated data that demonstrates the biological plausibility of developmental programming and this has influenced expert panels and non-governmental organisations in framing their recommendations for nutrition in pregnancy and infancy.
  • We have described a pathway from maternal protein-energy malnutrition through fetal malnutrition to altered kidney development and adult function (relates to current project 1 and ref 3 below)  
  • We have demonstrated how breed differences in hepatic fatty acid profiles and gene expression may be providing superior survival strategies to newborn Meishan pigs
  1. Gray C, Al-Dujaili EA, Sparrow AJ, Gardiner SM, Craigon J, Welham SJM, and Gardner DS. Maternal salt intake produces sex-specific hypertension in offspring: putative roles for kidney and gastrointestinal sodium handling. PLOS ONE (in Press), 2013.
  2. Lloyd LJ, Foster T, Rhodes P, Rhind SM, and Gardner DS. Protein-energy malnutrition during early gestation in sheep blunts fetal renal vascular and nephron development and compromises adult renal function. J Physiol 590: 377-393, 2012.
  3. Fainberg, HP, Bodlet, K, Bacardit, B, LI, D, Wessely, F, Mongan, NP, SymOnds, ME, Clarke, L and Mostyn, A. (2012) Reduced neonatal mortality in Meishan piglets: a role for hepatic fatty acids? PLoS One 7(11): e49101






Developmental Programming of Health and Disease Research Group

The University of Nottingham
School of Veterinary Medicine and Science
Sutton Bonington Campus, Leicestershire, LE12 5RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 6116
email: Email our Research Theme Leader