Congenital heart disease (CHD) is the most common birth defect worldwide and the number one killer of live-born infants in the United States. Heart development occurs early in embryogenesis and involves complex interactions between multiple cell populations, limiting the understanding and consequent treatment of CHD. Furthermore, genome sequencing has largely failed to predict or yield therapeutics for CHD. In addition to the underlying genome, epigenetics and mechanobiology both drive heart development. A growing body of evidence implicates the aberrant regulation of these two extra-genomic systems in the pathogenesis of CHD. In this review, we describe the stages of human heart development and the heart defects known to manifest at each stage. Next, we discuss the distinct and overlapping roles of epigenetics and mechanobiology in normal development and in the pathogenesis of CHD. Finally, we highlight recent advances in the identification of novel epigenetic biomarkers and environmental risk factors that may be useful for improved diagnosis and further elucidation of CHD etiology.
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