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Allergy risk influenced by birth season, finds study

Posted:  Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Can the season you were born in affect your future health? A new study answers this question in the affirmative. The study finds that a person’s risk of developing an allergy later in life is influenced by the season of birth.

Published in the journal Allergy, the study scanned DNA samples from a group of individuals who were born on the Isle of Wight in England. The researchers validated the results in a group of Dutch children.

The results revealed that specific markers on DNA (especially DNA methylation) were associated with the birth season and that these markers were present at least until the age of 18. The researchers also found that these markers were linked to allergic disease, example.g. persons born in autumn had an increased eczema risk compared to those born in spring.

Commenting on these outcomes, one of the study's authors, John Holloway, from the University of Southampton said, "These are really interesting results. We know that season of birth has an effect on people throughout their lives. However, until now, we did not know how the effects can be so long lasting. Epigenetic marks are attached onto DNA, and can influence gene expression for years, maybe even into the next generation. Our study has linked specific epigenetic marks with season of birth and risk of allergy. However, while these results have clinical implications in mediating against allergy risk, we are not advising altering pregnancy timing."

The researchers feel that more study is needed to examine how different seasons of the year and seasonal changes in temperature, sunlight levels, and diets influence disease risk. They also called for further research on the link between allergic disease and DNA methylation, and the effect of environmental exposures on the epigenome.

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