Scientists have long been interested in how adversity, such as a poor diet in early life, might cause lasting effects. Now researchers at the London Institute of Medical Sciences have developed a detailed visual demonstration that poor diet during pregnancy can cause biological changes that last throughout life. The team developed a new technique that allowed them to visualise genes as they were switched 'on' or 'off' in mouse embryos as they grew. They attached enzymes from fireflies and bacteria onto the gene they were studying, and watched how this produced a green glow as it was turned 'on'. Here, the gene is 'on' in the embryo on the left, and 'off' in the embryo on the right. The middle embryo was not labelled. When pregnant mice were fed a low protein diet, it interfered with the expression of genes within the embryo that are important for healthy growth.
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Written by Deborah Oakley
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences (the new name for the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre) the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.