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Theme 2: Project 1 - Early life exposures and effect

The foetus represents one of the most vulnerable stages of life for susceptibility to the effects of chemical exposure. This has been highlighted in several publications and remains of public concern as demonstrated by the interest that surrounded the publication in 2013 of a report from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists that made several recommendations for pregnant women in respect of reducing their potential chemical exposure ( This report highlights the information void that exists in the understanding of the actual levels of chemical exposure that occur in the foetus.

Here we are first seeking to better understand the qualitative and quantitative nature of foetal environmental exposures to chemicals using neonatal blood spots with an assessment of effect on one recognised biochemical susceptibility of fertilisation and embryonic development – DNA epigenetic modification. Epigenetic modifications are vital to life and passed from the mother and father onto the progeny through their gametes where they influence the phenotype of the offspring. Furthermore epigenetic modifications are known to alter throughout life in response to changes in the environment and chemical exposure. The consequence of environmentally induced epigenetic change for public health, if any, is unknown. A major focus for the project will be on endocrine disrupting chemicals in the primordial germ cells model system already developed.

Hypothesis: that exposure to environmental chemicals to the gamete and in utero occurs and can lead to specific alteration of the epigenome in target cell types that may have an adverse effect in early life that can persist throughout life. 

Lead researchers

Dr Tim Marczylo


Public Health England

Dr Mireille Toledano

Theme 3 Deputy Leader

Imperial College London