During conception and pregnancy, factors like the presence of chemical stressors, obesity, diabetes, and the nutritional status of parents play a vital role in the future health of the developing embryo.
Changes in conditions during the periconceptual (PC) period of gamete maturation and early embryonic development therefore have a long-lasting impact on the health of offspring. These can include the onset of cardiovascular, metabolic and neurological diseases during childhood, adolescence or adult life.
Growing evidence from studies using epidemiological and animal model reveals that children around the world are at risk from diseases associated with the exposure of their parents to chemical stressors before or during pregnancy. The results in later life can be difficulty conceiving children, problematic pregnancies, diabetes, obesity and lack of nutrition.
‘Test-tube’ babies conceived with the help of assisted reproduction treatment (ART) provide one of the largest distinct clinical cohorts in the world, comprising around six million individuals. A detailed studies of this group will give a better understanding of the future risk of disease facing current and future generations across Europe.
Partnership for comprehensive programme
The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Innovative Training Network (MSCA ITN) founded the DohART-NET project which focuses on the effect of altered conditions during the periconceptional (PC) period of development in humans. This includes babies born through ART interventions and from diabetic, obese mothers.
The initiative combines pre-clinical (animal and stem cell-models) and clinical studies with data linkage, bioinformatics and network science to identify and test the mechanisms behind common diseases found in early development.
One of the network’s main objectives is the training and progression of Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) in the fields of embryology, cell biology, developmental biology, animal models, bioimaging, molecular biology, genomics, epigenomics, proteomics, metabolomics, high-throughput bioinformatics, mathematical modelling and managerial skills.
This training will enable ESRs to work in both academic research and industry and collaborate with experts from different disciplines operating in different countries. Their success will be achieved through individual training programmes, work secondments and e-learning, and courses provided by local universities. In addition, ESRs will attend lectures at each participating institution, including some by world-renowned visiting speakers.
DohART-NET aims to advance efficient disease prevention and potential personalised therapeutic interventions in both the general and ART populations to combat adverse disease pathways. The project will provide 36-month trainings for each of the 13 ESR PhD students, who will help to improve public health over several generations by integrating basic pre-clinical, translational clinical and computer modelling approaches.
Project partners comprise: BioTalentum Ltd. (Hungary), University of Cambridge (UK), University of Manchester (UK), University of Southampton (UK), Erasmus University Medical Center (Netherlands), CeMM (Austria), Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (Germany), MWM GmbH (Germany), Universitair Ziekenhuis Brussel (Belgium), and IVI Valencia (Spain).
The initiative provides an exceptional interdisciplinary research and training environment for ESRs, who will be fully prepared to meet the demands of biomedical research. They will also greatly benefit from a network of internationally recognised scientists and the participation of SMEs, NGOs and large medical companies with relevant interest and expertise in the field.