Matt leads the nutritional epigenetics group within the Nutrition Theme of MRC Unit The Gambia at LSHTM. Before joining the group he took a MSc in Bioinformatics and Theoretical Systems Biology, followed by a PhD in bioinformatics / statistical genetics, both at Imperial College, London.
Statistics for Epidemiology and Public Health
MSc Nutrition for Global Health
The MRC International Nutrition Group has a long-standing interest in exploring links between early life exposures and long-term health outcomes. Much of our research is focussed on a rural community in The Gambia in Sub-Saharan West Africa.
Matt's prime focus is on epigenetics - the study of modifications to the genome that can affect gene expression without altering the underlying DNA sequence. Mounting evidence from animal and human studies suggests such modifications may mediate observed associations between early-life nutrition and later health and disease.
For our epigenetic studies we are able to exploit an ‘experiment of nature’ in rural Gambia whereby fluctuations in energy balance and maternal nutritional exposures show a distinct bimodal seasonal pattern. We have shown for example that season of conception and blood levels of key maternal nutritional biomarkers relating to one-carbon metabolism (B2, B6, cysteine and homocysteine) predict DNA methylation in infants at a number of metastable epialleles - genomic regions where methylation is established stochastically in the early embryo, leading to systemic (cross-tissue) inter-individual variation.
Our work has highlighted interesting candidate MEs for follow up in our population including a region at the POMC gene with links to obesity in children and adults, and at the tumour supressor ncRNA gene VTRNA2-1 which is linked to immune function. We are also using bioinformatic techniques to explore genetic and other factors that may be driving the distinctive DNA methylation dynamics at MEs and other regions of interest in the early human embryo.