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Projects. Life and Matter Sciences

Experimental study of the epigenetic implications of changes in the composition of fatty acids in the diet during pregnancy and their consequences for adult offspring

Lead Researcher:
Emilio Herrera Castillón

Research Centre:
Universidad San Pablo-CEU. Madrid.


Emilio Herrera CastillónDuring intrauterine development there are periods in which the fetus is vulnerable to disturbances in maternal nutrition. This project therefore has the aim of investigating variations in the composition of fatty acids in the maternal diet during the first half of gestation in rats and their results on the health of offspring at different ages, and their potential epigenetic implications. Special attention is paid to changes along the insulin-glucose axis.

Results obtained to date: from day 1 to day 12 of gestation, the rats were fed an isocaloric diet containing 9% soya, olive, fish, linseed or palm oil as the only non-vitamin fatty ingredient. After this date, all of the animals were fed with a standard diet and their offspring were studied at an age of 4, 8 and 12 months. The males in the fish oil group weighed less, and they had less lumbar adipose tissue than those in the other groups, while no differences were observed among the females. The levels of glucose in plasma did not differ between the groups, although base insulin following an oral overdose of glucose was lower in the males from the fish oil group at the different ages studied than in the other groups. They also displayed a lower index of sensitivity to insulin. To conclude, a moderate increase in n‑3 fatty acids in the maternal diet during the first period of gestation reduces the accumulation of fat and insulin resistance over age in males but not in females. It is suggested that this lesser degree of adiposity among the males in the fish oil group is the cause of their lessened insulin resistance when they are adults. The epigenetic implications of these changes are currently being studied.


Scientific production
1 article published in Journals

Researcher's web address:

Emilio Herrera Castillón

Current position:
Emeritus Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Pharmacy Faculty, San Pablo-CEU University, Madrid

Graduate and Doctor in Pharmacy, Complutense University, Madrid, and holder of an Honorary Doctorate in Medicine from the University of Lund (Sweden).

Research and academic activities:

  • Postdoctoral stay in the USA, 3 years
  • Scientific Researcher at the CSIC
  • Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the Biology Faculty of the University of Barcelona, of Medicine in the University of Alcalá de Henares, and of Pharmacy and Medicine in San Pablo-CEU University
  • Director of the Department of Research, and Research Co-ordinator in Ramón y Cajal Hospital, Madrid.
Most important prizes:
  • Prize for a Scientific Career, from the Danone Institute (Spain)
  • Ángel Herrera Research prize, San Pablo-CEU Foundation
  • The Jorgen Pedersen Medal, from the European Association of Diabetes (DPSG)
  • The Norbert Freinkel Lecture Award, American Diabetes Association; John Stowers Research Award, from the Diabetic Pregnancy Study Group (European Association for the Study of Diabetes).

Scientific production:

  • Scientific publications: 413, of which 258 are in journals with "impact factor" (IF). [IF total (JCR-2010): 794.20, and number of citations: 5454]
  • 82 chapters in books
  • Editor of 8 books.
  • Presentations to scientific conferences: 661.
  • Doctoral theses directed: 49.

*All intellectual property rights belong to the author. Reproduction of all or part of the work without permission from the author is prohibited.
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