UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Maternal epigenetic clocks measured during pregnancy do not predict gestational age at delivery or offspring birth outcomes: a replication study in metropolitan Cebu, Philippines Ryan, Calen P.; Rege, Raviraj J.; Lee, Nanette R.; Carba, Delia B.; Kobor, Michael S. (Geneticist); MacIsaac, Julia L.; Lin, David Tse-Shen, 1982-; Atashzay, Parmida; Kuzawa, Christopher


Adverse birth outcomes, such as early gestational age and low birth weight, can have lasting effects on morbidity and mortality, with impacts that persist into adulthood. Identifying the maternal factors that contribute to adverse birth outcomes in the next generation is thus a priority. Epigenetic clocks, which have emerged as powerful tools for quantifying biological aging and various dimensions of physiological dysregulation, hold promise for clarifying relationships between maternal biology and infant health, including the maternal factors or states that predict birth outcomes. Nevertheless, studies exploring the relationship between maternal epigenetic age and birth outcomes remain few. Here, we attempt to replicate a series of analyses previously reported in a US-based sample, using a larger similarly aged sample (n = 296) of participants of a long-running study in the Philippines. New pregnancies were identified prospectively, dried blood spot samples were collected during the third trimester, and information was obtained on gestational age at delivery and offspring weight after birth. Genome-wide DNA methylation was assessed with the Infinium EPIC array. Using a suite of 15 epigenetic clocks, we only found one significant relationship: advanced age on the epigenetic clock trained on leptin predicted a significantly earlier gestational age at delivery (β = − 0.15, p = 0.009). Of the other 29 relationships tested predicting gestational age and offspring birth weight, none were statistically significant. In this sample of Filipino women, epigenetic clocks capturing multiple dimensions of biology and health do not predict birth outcomes in offspring.

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