Adverse environmental exposures in pregnancy can significantly alter the development of the fetus resulting in impaired child neurodevelopment. Such exposures can lead to epigenetic alterations like DNA methylation, which may be a marker of poor cognitive, motor and behavioral outcomes in the infant. Here we review studies that have assessed DNA methylation in cord blood following maternal exposures that may impact neurodevelopment of the child. We also highlight some key studies to illustrate the potential for DNA methylation to successfully identify infants at risk for poor outcomes. While the current evidence is limited, in that observations to date are largely correlational, in time and with larger cohorts analyzed and longer term follow-up completed, we may be able to develop epigenetic biomarkers that not only indicate adverse early life exposures but can also be used to identify individuals likely to be at an increased risk of impaired neurodevelopment even in the absence of detailed information regarding prenatal environment.
Bibliographical note© 2016 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
- Cord blood
- DNA methylation