12/04 Bentley on Early Influences on Reproduction

Tuesday Dec 4  at 4 pm in  Room 1755 SPH I
Gillian Bentley, Professor, Medical Anthropology and Director of the Evolutionary Medicine Program at the University of Durham, UK 

Just how plastic are we? Reflections on reproductive ecology and early life

Recent work has focused on how the environment in the womb can influence health in later life including risks for metabolic disorders such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. These links between early and later life conditions are variously referred to as “fetal programming” or “predictive adaptive responses”. There has been less work looking at how the childhood environment can influence adult health, and particularly reproductive function. Given our long human lifespan, it would make sense if we continue to track the early environment into childhood rather than just through the fetal period. An extended period of plasticity would give a more informed environmental picture about what could be expected in the future. This talk will therefore draw attention to the childhood period for assessing human physiological plasticity, and its potential influence on human reproductive function. It presents a migrant model based on Bangladeshis who have moved from their home country to England, and who donated blood, saliva, growth measurements and questionnaire data for the analyses of many aspects of their reproductive function.