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Medical News - COVID-19 - Pregnancy - Epigenetic Changes in Newborns  Jul 01, 2023  7 months, 3 weeks, 3 days, 11 hours, 31 minutes ago

BREAKING NEWS! COVID-19 Exposure During Pregnancy Leads To Epigenetic Changes In Newborns, Paving The Way For Health Issues Later In Life!

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BREAKING NEWS! COVID-19 Exposure During Pregnancy Leads To Epigenetic Changes In Newborns, Paving The Way For Health Issues Later In Life!
Medical News - COVID-19 - Pregnancy - Epigenetic Changes in Newborns  Jul 01, 2023  7 months, 3 weeks, 3 days, 11 hours, 31 minutes ago
COVID-19 exposure during pregnancy Induces differential DNA methylation in umbilical cord blood cells (UCB Cells) affecting the unborn child later in life!
 

Medical News: In a groundbreaking study conducted jointly by Thomas Jefferson University in Pennsylvania, USA, and the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, USA, researchers have discovered alarming evidence of how COVID-19 exposure during pregnancy can cause differential DNA methylation in umbilical cord blood (UCB) cells. This groundbreaking finding suggests that the unborn child may potentially suffer from a variety of health and medical issues later in life.


Credit: Shutterstock

Lead researcher, Dr Pedro Urday from the department of neonatology at Thomas Jefferson University told Thailand Medical News, “Despite the low likelihood of vertical transmission from mother to infant, the study's findings reveal that fetal exposure to COVID-19 can alter DNA methylation patterns, which could have long-term effects on the child's health and development.”
 
The study findings shockingly found that COVID-19 induces differential DNA methylation in umbilical cord blood cells. The differentially methylated genes may contribute to hepatic, renal, cardiac, developmental and immunological disorders in offspring born to mothers with COVID-19 infection during pregnancy, and their developmental regulation.
 
Already, previous Medical News report had indicated that even those who had asymptomatic infections will end up with epigenetic changes.
https://www.thailandmedical.news/news/breaking-news-even-asymptomatic-sars-cov-2-infections-cause-dna-methylation-and-epigenetic-changes,-leading-to-immune-dysregulation
 
A latest study has also shown that these epigenetic changes are long-lasting for those who had been hospitalized for COVID-19.
https://www.atsjournals.org/doi/full/10.1165/rcmb.2022-0433LE
 
But past studies also mentioned in the earlier article by Thailand Medical News shows that these epigenetic changes are basically long lasting for all exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
 
The study team had aimed to understand the potential pathways and genes affected by COVID-19 infection during pregnancy, shedding light on the possible ramifications for offspring later in life.
 
The Study Design: Seeking Epigenetic Clues
To unravel the mysterious link b etween COVID-19 exposure during pregnancy and future health consequences, the study team collected umbilical cord blood samples from eight infants exposed to COVID-19 during gestation and compared them to samples from eight control infants with no COVID-19 exposure. The genomic DNA extracted from the UCB cells underwent genome-wide DNA methylation analysis using the Illumina Methylation EPIC Array.
 
The Findings: A Genomic Revelation
The study team identified 119 differentially methylated loci in the UCB cells of infants exposed to COVID-19, with 64 loci showing hypermethylation and 55 loci displaying hypomethylation compared to the control group. Intriguingly, the differentially methylated genes were associated with a range of health conditions, including cardiac, renal, hepatic, neurological diseases, developmental disorders, and immunological disorders.
 
Pathways Affected: Stress Response and Cardiovascular Development
Through Ingenuity Pathway Analysis (IPA), the study uncovered crucial canonical pathways influenced by COVID-19 exposure during pregnancy. These pathways included stress response (such as corticotropin-releasing hormone signaling, glucocorticoid receptor signaling, and oxytocin in brain signaling), as well as cardiovascular disease and development (including nitric oxide signaling in the cardiovascular system, apelin cardiomyocyte signaling pathways, factors promoting cardiogenesis, and renin-angiotensin signaling).
 
Unraveling Epigenetic Clues: The Key Genes
Some of the most impactful genes influenced by the differential methylation included BMP7, RHOBTB1, WWOX, and HLA-DOB. BMP7 is crucial for regulating bone disorders, renal injury, and pulmonary fibrosis. Remarkably, hypomethylation of BMP7 may reduce the risk of lung fibrosis in offspring. WWOX, a tumor suppressor gene, has been implicated in Alzheimer's disease, atherosclerosis, and cardiovascular diseases, while HLA-DOB is linked to bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) in preterm infants.
 
On the other hand, hypermethylation affected genes like XYLB, CLDN6, UBTF, LPCAT2, STRN4, and HLA-DPB1, which play roles in glucose metabolism, tight junction formation, neurodegeneration, atherosclerosis, and pulmonary remodeling.
 
Further investigations into these genes may provide crucial insights into the risk of heart, liver, and kidney diseases in offspring.
 
Connecting the Dots: COVID-19, Stress, and Long-term Health
The researchers emphasize the importance of understanding the connection between COVID-19 exposure during pregnancy and the subsequent epigenetic changes in newborns. Stress is known to have a significant impact on the epigenetic landscape, and the findings suggest that the stress response pathways affected by COVID-19 exposure during pregnancy may contribute to long-term health issues in offspring.
 
Stress during pregnancy, whether caused by COVID-19 infection or other factors, can lead to changes in hormone levels, immune function, and the release of stress-related molecules. These changes can potentially alter the DNA methylation patterns in fetal cells, leading to lasting effects on gene expression and cellular function.
 
The study team propose several mechanisms through which the epigenetic changes induced by COVID-19 exposure during pregnancy may influence long-term health outcomes. For instance, alterations in genes related to cardiovascular development and function may contribute to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases in adulthood. Changes in genes involved in glucose metabolism and tight junction formation could affect the risk of metabolic disorders and impaired barrier function, respectively.
 
The implications of these findings extend beyond COVID-19. They provide valuable insights into how maternal stress, particularly during critical periods of fetal development, can shape the health trajectories of future generations. Understanding the epigenetic changes induced by stressors like COVID-19 can pave the way for the development of preventive and therapeutic interventions to mitigate the potential health risks faced by individuals exposed to stressful conditions in utero.
 
Conclusion
 this groundbreaking study sheds light on the complex interplay between COVID-19 exposure during pregnancy, epigenetic changes in newborns, and potential health issues later in life. The findings underscore the importance of providing comprehensive support and care to pregnant individuals during the pandemic and highlight the long-term consequences that need to be considered in public health strategies aimed at protecting maternal and child health.
 
The researchers also acknowledge the need for further investigation to validate and expand upon these findings. Larger studies involving diverse populations and longer-term follow-up are essential to unravel the full extent of the impact of COVID-19 exposure during pregnancy on epigenetic modifications and subsequent health outcomes in offspring.
 
The study findings were published in the peer reviewed journal: Epigenetic Insights (Sage Journals)
https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/25168657231184665
 
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