How does parental diet impact the health of future offspring? This is one of the many questions the laboratory of Dr. Adelheid (Heidi) Lempradl seeks to answer. With mounting evidence that nutrition and metabolism can have a ripple effect through the generations, it is critically important to gain a better understanding of how these processes work in order to develop interventions that improve human health.
By determining the molecular mechanisms that underlie phenotype transmission across generations, the Lempradl Laboratory aims to identify and systematically map the nutritional and chemical sources of adverse intergenerational effects. Their ultimate goal is to develop novel ways to prevent transmission of harmful phenotypes to subsequent generations and thus, in the long term, improving health.
Dr. Lempradl and her colleagues were the first to show that paternal diet reprograms metabolism of the offspring in Drosophila. Their findings also identified one of the first gene networks required for proper intergenerational metabolic programming. Additionally, they identified the first epigenetic signature associated with obesity that is conserved across species, firmly establishing Drosophila as a valuable model in the field of intergenerational inheritance.
Her earlier work also resulted in major advances in the understanding of how DNA regulatory elements control gene expression. In 2014, she and her colleagues published novel evidence that strand-specific RNA transcripts act as a key developmental switch for regulatory elements, representing a simple and elegant system for enabling highly complex temporal and spatial gene regulation in development.