An investigation of intra-uterine nutrition and prenatal development– applying the principle of Mendelian randomization

PhD project (3/4 yr research project leading to independent research at the doctorate level)

Dr Sarah Lewis, Professor Caroline Relton

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Heavy alcohol drinking during pregnancy can result in foetal alcohol syndrome, which is characterized in part by growth deficiency and neuro-developmental disorders. However the
effects of moderate levels (within the normal range) of drinking on foetal development during are not clear. Similarly the effects of low levels of nutrient intake, for example folate and vitamin D, during pregnancy on infant development are not clear. The problem is that observational studies are often unable to control for confounding by
smoking, other nutrients, socioeconomic status and other lifestyle factors. Measurement of duration and amount of intake may be inaccurate, due to wide categories, misreporting of intake and recall bias.

Aims & objectives

The aim is to assess associations between genetic variants related to diet among mothers and relate these to offspring development outcomes (including psychiatric and psychological outcomes), and also to determine whether epigenetics is likely to explain any observed associations.


Standard epidemiological association tests will be carried out using data already collected in a large mother-child cohort study. In addition genetic association analysis and Mendelian randomization analysis will be carried out, as well as two step Mendelian randomization using methylation data.


Davey Smith G and Ebrahim S. Int J Epidemiol. 2003, 32:1-22
Relton CL and Davey Smith G. Int J Epidemiol. 2012, 41:161-76.

Created on Oct. 1, 2015, 9 a.m.

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