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The Fetal Matrix: Evolution, Development and Disease


  • 18 b/w illus.
  • Page extent: 268 pages
  • Size: 247 x 174 mm
  • Weight: 0.7 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 612.6/4
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: QH491 .G584 2005
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Developmental biology
    • Embryology, Human
    • Human evolution
    • Medicine, Preventive
    • Medical genetics

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521834575 | ISBN-10: 0521834570)

New discoveries reveal how crucial interactions which determine our destiny occur before birth, when our genes interact with their environment as the embryo and fetus develop. These processes - in the matrix of the womb - are evolutionary echoes of mechanisms which allowed our hunter-gatherer ancestors to survive. These exciting insights into predictive adaptive responses suggest new ways of protecting the health of the fetus, infant and adult. If inappropriate they can trigger obesity, diabetes and heart disease, formerly thought to result solely from adult lifestyle. The new concepts in this book are crucial to understanding the daunting public health burden in societies undergoing rapid transition from poverty to affluence. They add an important new dimension to evolutionary theory. Synthesising developmental biology, evolutionary history, medical science, public health and social policy, this is a ground-breaking and fascinating account by two of the world's leading pioneers in this important emerging field.

• Explains the evolutionary background and biological basis of the emerging burden of diseases of affluence • Combines evolutionary history, medical science, clinical medicine and public health • Written by two of the world's leading experts and pioneers in this rapidly emerging field


1. Shaping our destiny: genes, environment and their interactions; 2. Mother and fetus; 3. Fetal choices; 4. Predictive adaptive responses and human diseases; 5. Obesity, diabetes and other diseases; 6. The biology of predictive adaptive responses; 7. Predictive adaptive responses - critical processes in evolution; 8. Evolutionary echoes and the human camel; 9. Improving human health; 10. Fetal futures.


'Gluckman and Hanson argue that the interaction between mammals and their environment while in the womb irreversibly affects their future development, what they call a 'predictive adaptive response'. It also has huge health implications for the rest of their lives. The authors are persuasive, and their findings have relevance for health policy everywhere. If maternal well-being affects the lifelong health of the offspring, it makes good sense to ensure that mothers are always well cared for.' New Scientist

'In an ideal world The Fetal Matrix would be taken more seriously than any other book on health and nutrition purlished in the past year.' FT Magazine

'Those seeking an alternative to the current preventive approaches focused on healthy choices by adults should certainly read Gluckman and Hanson's book. The book itself provides a clear description of the origin and development of a provocative and truly original idea.' Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine

'The Fetal Matrix by Peter Gluckman and Mark Hanson is a fascinating and important book about the responses of the mammalian fetus to its environment … a thought-provoking account of a topic in which developmental biology, physiology and clinical medicine intersect.' Nature

'The biological interpretation of disease and health is a topic in need of serious attention and wider dissemination. In The Fetal Matrix, Gluckman and Hanson have made a very interesting contribution to this enterprise. … they have introduced, in a very readable fashion, an idea that is likely to receive further attention.' Biologist

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