Human epidemiological and animal laboratory studies show that suboptimal environments in the womb and during early neonatal life alter development and predispose the individual to lifelong health problems. The concept of the developmental origins of adult diseases has become well accepted because of the compelling animal studies that have precisely defined the outcomes of specific exposures such as nutrient restriction, overfeeding during pregnancy, maternal stress, and exogenously administered glucocorticoids. This review focuses on the use of animal models to evaluate exposures, mechanisms, and outcomes involved in developmental programming of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and altered pituitary-adrenal function in offspring in later life. Ten principles of developmental programming are described as fundamental, regardless of the exposure during development and the physiological system involved in the altered outcome. The 10 principles are discussed in the context of the physiological systems involved and the animal model studies that have been conducted to evaluate exposures, mechanisms, and outcomes. For example, the fetus responds to challenges such as hypoxia and nutrient restriction in ways that help to ensure its survival, but this "developmental plasticity" may have long-term consequences that may not be beneficial in adult life. To understand developmental programming, which represents the interaction of nature and nurture, it is necessary to integrate whole animal systems physiology, in vitro cellular biology, and genomic and proteomic approaches, and to use animal models that are carefully characterized and appropriate for the questions under study. Animal models play an important role in this evaluation because they permit combined in vivo and in vitro study at different critical time windows during the exposure and the ensuing developmental responses.
- Animal models
- Developmental origins of adult disease
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Animal Science and Zoology
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)