Michelle Del Villar, Vividha Bhaskar, Hong Wei Chen

Our work aims to explain the influence of intergenerational trauma and environmental stress on heritable changes in gene expression. In modern times, where there is an increasing need to have a better understanding of psychological stress and mental health, especially for the youth, it would be crucial to also understand how these factors can impact our genes through the study of epigenetics. It refers to the changes to an individual’s genetic code that can alter gene expression, without changing the DNA sequence, and are passed from one cell generation to the next.

Pregnancy is a critical period of plasticity where physiological systems known as fetal programming prepare the fetus for optimal adaptation to the postnatal environment. During development and cell differentiation, DNA methylation is dynamic, but some specific patterns may be retained as a form of epigenetic memory. This is a topic that addresses the molecular basis of epigenetic mechanisms and could help explain the developmental origins of child mental health disorders but also further our understanding of epigenetic changes.

View a PDF of our poster.