Human prenatal development can be viewed as a program of genetic switches that turn on, in a highly regulated manner, at specific places and times. But a body of evidence is emerging that paints a less hardwired picture, one of responses to environmental challenges fostering changes early on that reverberate decades later, in the guise of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. A symposium at the American Society of Human Genetics annual meeting, held in Philadelphia Oct. 3-7, addressed the fetal origin of adult diseases.

Peter Nathaneilsz
"Most people have Brave New World all wrong. The book that supposedly says that we are the products of our genes really means we are the products of the environment," said Peter Nathanielsz, the J. Law professor of physiology at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. He was referring to the "epsilon" class of fetuses in Aldous Huxley's famed novel who were treated...

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