Stanford University

Effects of Parental Obesity and Insulin Resistance on Offspring Immune System

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Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States, and the children of obese mothers are far more likely to become obese and suffer obesity related adverse health effects. Given that the immune system is intrinsically involved in the development and progression of obesity, our goal is to decipher whether maternal obesity affects the immune system of children, and thereby control their immune responses to various immunologic insults. In order to address this question, we will model obesity in female mice by feeding them a high-fat diet. Subsequently, normal and obese female mice will be bred with normal males. Immune cells from resulting progeny will be characterized at the phenotypic, functional, transcriptional and epigenetic levels. These experiments will, for the first time, reveal how maternal obesity influences the immune system of the children even at the level of the DNA. Ultimately, through a detailed understanding of this process, we should be able to develop ways to prevent immune cell alterations in progeny resulting due to maternal obesity.