EpiHealthNet
EpiHealthNet is a European Commission funded project. It contains 9 Full Partners from 5 different countries and 3 Associated Partners.  The project will run for 4 years, from May 2013 untill May 2017. The scientific leader of the project is Tom Stout and the coordinator is Utrecht University.
 
Grant agreement for: Initial Training Networks, ITN
Call identifier: FP7-PEOPLE-2012-ITN
Implementation mode: Multi-ITN
Project acronym: EpiHealthNet
Grant agreement no.: 317146
Coordinator: Utrecht University
Duration: 4 years, May 2013 - may 2017
 
 
Abstract:
Scientific evidence clearly indicates that ageing and health in adult life is programmed by genetic and epigenetic mechanisms early in life. Developmental plasticity in response to the environment, including nutrient availability, of mammalian embryos indicates the capacity for newly emerging embryonic and extraembryonic cell lineages to initiate compensatory responses which may attune nutrient delivery to the needs of the developing fetus. EpiHealthNet will focus on these early events in several relevant models (diabetes, obesity and assisted reproductive technologies (ART)), using human samples, stem cell lines, animal models and data mining/bioinformatics tools to decipher some of the most important pathways and to offer options for early intervention to avoid adverse health effects.
Main goal of the project is to improve health of the human population by understanding the mechanisms and pathways in early development, with special emphasis on epigenetic changes and developmentally relevant metabolic signaling, which create biological variation and have a long term effect on the health of individuals across their lifespan.
 
Specific goals include:
 
i) Identification of the main genetic pathways affecting the health of developing embryos in a diabetic or obese maternal environment (human, rabbit and porcine models); 
ii) Identification of the main genetic and metabolic pathways affected, and epigenetic and imprinting perturbations arising, in human and animal (mouse, rabbit, bovine, equine) pre-implantation and ART models that may compromise health of the progeny; 
iii) Discovery of the key genes and pathways affecting epigenetic and imprinting sensitivity in early stages of development, in order to create intervention tools against epigenetic misprogramming; 
iv) Using bioinformatic tools to link, for the first time, health related pathways with early epigenetic perturbations in order to explain how early events influence the health and lifespan of individuals. Datasets available on patients born from diabetic mothers or from ART in the last 20 yr will be analysed to help predict the importance of these perturbations, and some of the resulting human biological variations in health across an entire lifespan; 
​v) Studying the possibilities of early intervention to ameliorate the maternal environment, or by selecting embryos with less significant alterations using non-invasive embryo development imaging and metabolomics methods on culture media.
 
Concept
Scientific evidence clearly indicates that ageing and health in adult life are programmed by genetic and epigenetic mechanisms early in life. The working hypothesis of the current proposal is:
(1) that the critical “window” for this programming is during peri-conception oocyte and embryo development and that
(2) molecular pathways involved in embryo metabolic and stress adaptation (insulin/IGF, mTOR) restrict health and longevity in adult life.
Objectives
Main goal of the project: To improve the health of the human population by understanding mechanisms and pathways in early development, with special emphasis on epigenetic changes and developmentally relevant metabolic signals, which create biological variation and have a long term effect on the health of individuals.