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Lasting impact of pre-birth environment on future health

23 July 2014

Persistent echoes of early life

Lecture highlights the lasting impact of the pre-birth environment on future health.

The Liggins Institute’s newest professor, paediatrician Paul Hofman will present his Inaugural Lecture “Persistent echoes of early life” at the University of Auckland on Wednesday 30 July at 5pm.

Professor Hofman has been involved in clinical research at the Institute for more than 10 years. During that time he and his colleagues have amassed a considerable body of evidence showing that events that occur even before a child is born continue to influence its health and development as it grows up.

Professor Hofman says there is now growing awareness that early life events have recognised outcomes which affect health in later life, including body composition, metabolism and adult disease risk.

“Events that occur during the time from pre-conception through to late pregnancy have been associated with differing, adverse outcomes dependent on the timing and duration of the events,” he says

The lecture will recount his research team’s early findings from studies in which they followed the development of children who had been born preterm or small for their gestational age. Even before 10 years of age the preterm born children showed signs of insulin resistance – a condition known to be a potential precursor of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. The story continued as researchers found links between other factors, such as birth order and parental age, which suggest that these too may affect long term growth and metabolic disease risk.

Professor Hofman combines his research at the Liggins Institute with clinical work as a paediatric endocrinologist at Auckland’s Starship Children’s Hospital, treating children with hormone related conditions that affect their growth, development and metabolism. He holds leadership positions in the discipline’s two largest regional societies: Immediate Past-president of the Australasian Paediatric Endocrine Group and President-elect of the Asia Pacific Paediatric Endocrine Society. He also assists a number of support groups including the Diabetes Youth, Turner Syndrome Society, the Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia Society and the Prader Willi Syndrome Society, of which he is a past president.

Liggins Institute Director and long-time colleague Professor Wayne Cutfield will introduce the lecture. “Promotion to professor is the pinnacle of academic achievement and reflects Paul’s international reputation as a world class researcher in the field of metabolism and developmental programming,” said Professor Cutfield.

This research aligns strongly with the Liggins Institute’s vision of “a healthy start for a healthy life” and its aim to improve life-long health through excellent research into the long-term consequences of early life events.

The lecture will be held 5-6pm in lecture theatre 505-007 on the ground floor of the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences building at 85 Park Road, Grafton; opposite Auckland Hospital and the Auckland Domain.

The lecture is open to the public and visitors are welcome to join members of the Institute and University and the medical and science communities for light refreshments in the adjacent Liggins Institute Foyer, from 4.30pm.

Further information is on the Liggins Institute website or telephone 09 923 1966.

The Liggins Institute
The Liggins Institute is a Large-Scale Research Institute of The University of Auckland, NZ. The Institute’s research demonstrates the importance of children having a healthy start to life and the ongoing role of nutrition in promoting and supporting optimal health throughout life.

The multidisciplinary, translational research seeks to understand the biological mechanisms that drive critical processes during development and harness that knowledge in ways that will improve quality of life across communities and generations.


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