The Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD) paradigm is one of the most rapidly expanding areas of biomedical research. Environmental stressors that can impact on DOHaD encompass a variety of environmental and occupational hazards as well as deficiency and oversupply of nutrients and energy. They can disrupt early developmental processes and lead to increased susceptibility to disease/dysfunctions later in life. Presentations at the fourth Conference on Prenatal Programming and Toxicity in Boston, in October 2014, provided important insights and led to new recommendations for research and public health action. The conference highlighted vulnerable exposure windows that can occur as early as the preconception period and epigenetics as a major mechanism than can lead to disadvantageous "reprogramming" of the genome, thereby potentially resulting in transgenerational effects. Stem cells can also be targets of environmental stressors, thus paving another way for effects that may last a lifetime. Current testing paradigms do not allow proper characterization of risk factors and their interactions. Thus, relevant exposure levels and combinations for testing must be identified from human exposure situations and outcome assessments. Testing of potential underpinning mechanisms and biomarker development require laboratory animal models and in vitro approaches. Only few large-scale birth cohorts exist, and collaboration between birth cohorts on a global scale should be facilitated. DOHaD-based research has a crucial role in establishing factors leading to detrimental outcomes and developing early preventative/remediation strategies to combat these risks.
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© 2015 by the Endocrine Society.