Early life origins of human health & disease.
Article Type: Book review
Subject: Books (Book reviews)
Author: Wadhwa, Shashi
Pub Date: 05/01/2010
Publication: Name: Indian Journal of Medical Research Publisher: Indian Council of Medical Research Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Biological sciences; Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 Indian Council of Medical Research ISSN: 0971-5916
Issue: Date: May, 2010 Source Volume: 131 Source Issue: 5
Topic: NamedWork: Early Life Origins of Human Health and Disease (Nonfiction work)
Persons: Reviewee: Newnham, J.P.; Ross, M.G.
Accession Number: 237135620
Full Text: Early life origins of human health & disease, Newnham JP, Ross MG, editors (Switzerland, Karger), 2009. 224 pages. Price: CHF US$ 139.00; EUR 99.50 ISBN 978-3-8055-9139-3

Epidemiological, clinical and animal research studies over a period of time have led to a concept of developmental origins of health and disease. The seeds of this concept were sown in 1973 by Dorner and his group, but strengthened by the Barker hypothesis--also called thrifty phenotype hypothesis which through epidemiological data stated that reduced foetal growth is strongly associated with a number of chronic conditions later in life. The recent years have seen phenomenal interest in this concept leading to the formation of a society by that name and its 6th World Congress was held in November 2009, along with the birth of an international journal devoted to the subject. The first treatise on the developmental origins of health and disease was brought out by Peter Gluckman and Mark Hanson in 2006, which has been followed by a few more.

This book written in a lucid readable manner by 63 contributors in 19 chapters covering more than 200 pages brings home, yet again, the fact that the nutritional status (low or high) and environmental factors (pollutants) to which a pregnant mother is subjected, influence the developing foetus such that the impact on health status of the exposed individual remains during the subsequent lifetime. It brings attention to additional risk factors of stress, subtle dietary deficiencies, as well as placental malfunction, affecting the offspring to develop problems in later life. Various experimental evidences have been put together in the different chapters to demonstrate the effects of early foetal environmental influences on lung function, reproductive health, bone structure, muscle mass and strength, kidney, immune tolerance, hypothalamo--hypophyseal axis, endocrine system and the brain. The book emphasizes the fact that it is 'foetal adaptative responses' of the susceptible organ systems to the nutritional and environmental insults during critical periods of development, which render the individual vulnerable to subsequent factors later in life leading to a mismatch with consequences of disease.

An important aspect highlighted and reviewed is that both genetic and the epigenetic effects of environment (through DNA methylation, histone modification and micro RNA) are passed down to the progeny and future generations forming the underlying cause for the burden of many chronic debilitating diseases seen in the offspring. The magnitude of such a transfer is evident in the increasing incidence of diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disorders and cancer from the epidemiological surveys. This book is the first to review the emerging evidence for early origins of diseases affecting motor control and schizophrenia; although other behavioural disorders linked to increased stress susceptibility from a suboptimal environment during human development have not been dealt with.

This compendium strings these diseases to a time frame of origin in embryonic development, urges the need and discusses the approaches to understand better the mechanism of production and transmission of these so called lifestyle diseases to future generations and their burgeoning impact on global economy. Through understanding of the mechanisms of gene--environment interaction would emerge therapies for early prevention of these diseases. Nevertheless, the importance of proper nutrition and minimizing the exposure of the developing foetus to pollutants (toxic substances, industrial fumes, fertilizers, noise, temperature, etc) remains the key to this newly understood and emerging field of developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD).

This book makes absorbing reading for the clinician and researchers interested in the biology of chronic non communicable diseases. This book is a must' read eye-opener for the guardians of national health and economy.

Shashi Wadhwa

Department of Anatomy

All India Institute of Medical Sciences

New Delhi 110 029, India

e-mail: shashiwadhwa@hotmail.com
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2010 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.