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Boys and girls differ in genetic response to what mom eats

Placentas of female fetuses more sensitive to maternal diet

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2:50pm, March 8, 2010

You are what your mother ate, to some extent; how much depends partly on whether you are a boy or a girl, new research shows.

A study in mice reveals that expectant mothers’ diets influence gene activity differently in the placentas of male and female offspring, researchers report online March 8 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The placentas of female fetuses proved most sensitive to maternal diet, producing more of a protein that responds to estrogen, say researchers led by Cheryl Rosenfeld, a reproductive biologist at the University of Missouri in Columbia. The extra sensitivity could make female offspring more susceptible to estrogen-mimicking chemicals in the environment.

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