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Better ways to treat chronic diseases highlighted

By ZHENG CAIXIONG | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2024-02-04 23:18

People with obesity, diabetes and related chronic diseases will receive more effective treatments involving precision medicines in the near future, according to a recently published medical study.

The paper, titled "The Born in Guangzhou Cohort Study enables generational genetic discoveries" and compiled by experts from the Guangzhou Women and Children's Medical Center, was published in the academic journal Nature on Wednesday. It reveals how, using scientific methods, health issues concerning parents, especially mothers, and children can be more efficiently addressed.

Qiu Xiu, director of the women's health division at the center, said the study indicates there may be more precise methods for early intervention in chronic diseases such as obesity in children and adults.

"More personalized information will help us prescribe precision medicines, and for common diseases, we can offer corresponding treatments based on individual conditions," she said at a news conference in Guangzhou on Friday.

Many young women experience dry, itchy skin after pregnancy. In Guangdong, some people refer to it as "fetal toxicity", Qiu said. "However, it may actually be due to the high level of total bile acid in pregnant women, who suffer from cholestasis (bile build-up in the liver)."

Currently, doctors prescribe pregnant women medicines for itchiness based on clinical diagnosis, but in the future, they will be better equipped with more information, Qiu said, adding that doctors could test pregnant women for genetic mutations.

"The early stages of life is an important window for prevention and control of adult chronic diseases," the expert said, emphasizing that it is necessary to understand if exposure to adverse environments is leading to diseases, and what the pathogenic factors are.

Qiu and her team found that there is a correlation between newborn fat metabolism and fetal growth status at various stages of pregnancy.

Their long-term study encompassed the sequencing and analysis of 4,053 Chinese individuals, and used a cross-generational Mendelian randomization method over a period of two-and-a-half years to clarify the potential causal relationship between pregnancy variables and fetal growth.

"For example, for every one millimol per liter increase in maternal fasting blood sugar, the birth weight of the baby increases by 516.2 grams. For every one mmol/L increase in maternal total bile acid during pregnancy, the baby's birth length decreases by 0.42 centimeters," Qiu said.

Xia Huimin, academic leader and professor of pediatric surgery at the center, said in the study that the researchers discovered a new gene mutation related to cholestasis, which is involved in the entire liver bile metabolism process and may cause or worsen the degree of primary jaundice in newborns.

In addition, the study found for the first time a causal relationship between maternal total bile acid during pregnancy and the birth length of babies, he said.

Zhou Wenhao, president of the center, said that cholestasis during pregnancy not only has an impact on the development of the fetus in the uterus, but also leads to poor adaptability of the fetus after birth and a high risk of death.

"If candidate genes are identified and used as early targets for testing, doctors can use drugs to reduce the level of total bile acid in pregnant women, alleviate clinical symptoms and improve fetal growth," he said.

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