Background: Epigenetic mechanisms provide one potential explanation for how environmental influences in early life cause long-term changes in chronic disease susceptibility. Whereas epigenetic dysregulation is increasingly implicated in various rare developmental syndromes and cancer, the role of epigenetics in complex chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity, remains largely uncharacterized. Extensive work in animal models is required to develop specific hypotheses that can be practicably tested in humans. Animal Models: We have developed a mouse model showing that methyl donor supplementation prevents transgenerational amplification of obesity, suggesting a role for DNA methylation in the developmental establishment of body weight regulation. Conclusions: Coupling such models with recently developed epigenomic technologies should ultimately enable us to determine if epigenetics is an important link between early life events and adult disease.

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