Purpose of review
Genomic imprinting is an epigenetically-driven phenomenon that responds to environmental stimuli to determine the fetal growth trajectory. This review aims at describing the transgenerational meaning of genomic imprinting while supporting the study of genomic imprinting in placenta for the determination of an important biomarker of chronic and developmental disorders in children as driven by the environment.
Recent work has shown that genomic imprinting reaches beyond the basic significance of an epigenetic mark regulating gene expression. Genomic imprinting has been theorized as the main determinant of epigenetic inheritance. Concomitantly, new studies in the field of molecular epidemiology became available that tie the fetal growth trajectory to genomic imprinting in response to environmental stimuli, making of genomic imprinting the driving force of the fetal growth. When carried out in placenta, the effector of the intrauterine environment as conveyed by the maternal exposure to the general life environment, the study of genomic imprinting may reveal critical information on alterations of the fetal growth trajectory.
The study of genomic imprinting profiles in placentas from birth cohorts of individuals exposed to different environmental stimuli can provide a new, much needed, tool for the elaboration of effective public health intervention plans for child health.