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Cambridge Reproduction


My research interests are in comparative developmental physiology with particular emphasis on the endocrine and other mechanisms controlling intrauterine development and its long-term, postnatal consequences. My long term goal is to identify how conditions during early life programme development and increase susceptibility to adult-onset degenerative diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. The research takes an integrated approach from the systems to the molecular levels and has direct applications to medicine, veterinary medicine and the food and livestock industries.  My research has three main themes.

1.Feto-placental growth and metabolism

Lately, we have been focusing on the role of the placenta in developmental programming through measurements of placental nutrient transfer during different nutritional and endocrine conditions.  Together with analyses of tissue morphology, enzyme activities and expression of growth and gluco-regulatory genes, these measurements provide a comprehensive assessment of the environmental factors controlling fetal growth and metabolism.

2.Feto-placental maturation

Hormonal control of tissue maturation is one of my major research interests. More specifically, we have been examining the role of glucocorticoids as maturational and programming signals in utero and the mechanisms by which they act to permanently alter tissue structure and function. Recently, our focus has been on the ontogeny and endocrine regulation of mitochondrial function in fetal tissues.

3.Postnatal consequences of intrauterine programming

In recent years, we have begun to assess the postnatal physiological consequences of altered intrauterine development. We have shown that environmentally-induced changes in prenatal growth determine postnatal growth, fat deposition, glucose metabolism and the function of several endocrine systems including the pancreas, pituitary, adrenal and adipose tissue. Our studies use a range of approaches to manipulate the intrauterine environment including embryo transfer, dietary manipulation, hormone administration and multiple pregnancy. Currently, we are examining the postnatal metabolic and behavioural consequences of maternal obesity and stress during pregnancy.