Research Fellows Directory
Dr Geula Hanin
University of Cambridge
Genomic imprinting is an epigenetically regulated process leading to expression of genes from the maternal or paternal copy rather than from both copies.
Imprinting is specific to placental mammals and is essential for prenatal growth and development, controlling nutritional resources to offspring via the placenta. Imprinting also plays important roles in the brain and in postnatal adaptations during the lifecourse, including maternal metabolic adaptations to pregnancy.
Based on a small number of studies in mouse and marsupials, we predict that, in addition to controlling prenatal resources, imprinting contributes to post-natal nutritional control via regulation of lactation. Maternal postnatal care in mammals is extensive and involves lactation, supporting nutrient transfer from mother to newborn. Breast milk contains bioactive molecules that protect against infection and contribute to immune maturation, organ development, and microbial colonization. Normal development of the mammary gland before, during, and after lactation is essential for these processes. Breastfed children experience lower rates of infectious morbidity and mortality, obesity, and diabetes. Furthermore, breastfeeding mothers have lower rates of breast and ovarian cancer and diabetes.
In this study, we aim to elucidate which imprinted genes control changes in the mammary gland, ask how this process occurs. We will determine what the implications of these genes is on the mother-offspring interaction and the impact that compromised mammary gland function may have on offspring health both early and later in life.
My research aims to increase our understanding of the mechanisms of early nutrition and its relation to life-long health.
Interests and expertise (Subject groups)