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Epigenetic effects of alcohol exposure in the first trimester

4 months
Approved budget:
Mr Nathaniel Carter
Health issue:
Addiction (alcohol/drugs/gambling/smoking)
Proposal type:
Pacific Health Summer Studentship
Lay summary
My name is Nathaniel Carter, and I am a Māori and Niuean second-year medical student. The research objective of my summer studentship is to characterise DNA modifications associated with alcohol exposure before birth. This will be done through use of high content screening, genome wide DNA methylation analysis, and Western Blotting of cord-blood samples that have been obtained from control mothers and from mothers who reported alcohol consumption in the first trimester of pregnancy. This period is when the fetus is most vulnerable to alcohol exposure, as the protective placenta has not fully formed yet. Alcohol exposure here can adversely impact the fetal epigenome and evidence suggests that this increases susceptibility to non-communicable disease development in later life, such as osteoporosis. This is especially important, because reportedly one in four women in New Zealand consume alcohol during pregnancy. Thus supporting this application will help to explore alcohol’s epigenetic effects.