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CORDIS

Developmental Origins: exploring the Nature-Nurture Interplay

Project description

The interplay of nature and nurture

Is it nature or nurture? How does the early life environment interact with genetic predisposition to causally shape later life outcomes? Are there certain environments that exacerbate or reduce health inequalities in the population? These questions have been tabled by the EU-funded DONNI project. To find the answers, the project is combining advancements across disciplines. It will evaluate the long-term effects of short-term variations in early life conditions and will test the hypothesis that gene-environment interactions shape later life outcomes.

Objective

The “Developmental Origins of Health and Disease” (DOHaD) hypothesis states that insults in early life can have lifelong, irreversible impacts, affecting individuals’ health and well-being in older age. My proposed research builds on this in two main ways. First, I will use natural experiments to investigate the causal impact of early life circumstances on later life outcomes, focusing on novel (1) nutritional, (2) toxicological, (3) health and (4) economic environments in early life. Within these, I will consider insults (i) for which there is insufficient knowledge of their long-term impacts, (ii) which are relevant today, and (iii) importantly, which are modifiable. Second, I will go beyond the old “nature versus nurture” debate and investigate how individuals’ genes (‘nature’) interacts with the above early life environments (‘nurture’) in creating inequalities in health and well-being.

Whilst neither the estimation of causal effects within DOHaD, nor the estimation of the gene-environment (GxE) interplay is new, their combination is. Indeed, it is currently not known how the early life environment interacts with genetic predisposition to causally shape later life outcomes, as well as whether certain environments exacerbate or reduce health inequalities in the population. Combining advancements across disciplines, I will evaluate the long-term effects of short-term variations in early life conditions (objective 1), and I will directly test the hypothesis that gene-environment interactions causally shape later life outcomes (objective 2). I will digitize historical data on early life environmental exposures and merge these with large-scale individual-level data. As such, my proposal will investigate the extent to which genes interact with the environment, using natural experiments to identify interventions that can ameliorate inequalities in health and well-being (objective 3).

Host institution

UNIVERSITY OF BRISTOL
Net EU contribution
€ 1 498 767,00
Address
BEACON HOUSE QUEENS ROAD
BS8 1QU Bristol
United Kingdom

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Region
South West (England) Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Bristol/Bath area Bristol, City of
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Links
Total cost
€ 1 498 767,00

Beneficiaries (1)