Prenatal environmental exposures, epigenetics, and disease

This review summarizes recent evidence that prenatal exposure to diverse environmental chemicals dysregulates the fetal epigenome, with potential consequences for subsequent developmental disorders and disease manifesting in childhood, over the lifecourse, or even transgenerationally. The primordial germ cells, embryo, and fetus are highly susceptible to epigenetic dysregulation by environmental chemicals, which can thereby exert multiple adverse effects. The data reviewed here on environmental contaminants have potential implications for risk assessment although more data are needed on individual susceptibility to epigenetic alterations and their persistence before this information can be used in formal risk assessments. The findings discussed indicate that identification of environmental chemicals that dysregulate the prenatal epigenome should be a priority in health research and disease prevention.

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