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Cambridge Reproduction


Understanding the effect of obesity in pregnancy on the placenta and investigating the effect of metformin-intervention using an animal model and human studies

Half of the women in Europe of reproductive age are overweight or obese. More and more evidence is accumulating that obesity in pregnancy not only leads to pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes (GDM), preeclampsia and stillbirth but also increases risk of cardio-metabolic disease in the offspring later in life. In my lab (Ozanne lab in the Institute of Metabolic Science) we use a mouse model of maternal diet-induced obesity that recapitulates many of these observations in humans to dissect the underlying mechanisms mediating these relationships. The placenta as the key interface for maternofetal communication is likely to play a crucial role in mediating short- and long- term effects on the offspring of obese pregnancies. My project therefore firstly aims to investigate the effect of obesity on the placenta using our animal model. This includes structural and functional analysis of the placenta and its interaction with the fetus. In parallel as a second aim I am phenotyping the cardiometabolic health of the obese dams. It is crucial to find suitable interventions to prevent detrimental effects of obese pregnancies, therefore a final aim is exploring whether the drug metformin, given during pregnancy to obese women or women with GDM, can correct obesity-induced changes in the placenta. Metformin freely crosses the placenta, so direct effects of metformin on the fetus will also be addressed.