The overall goal of our research is to understand how placental function is altered by the maternal environment, and how these changes affect fetal growth and fat deposition.
The reason this is important is because babies’ growth in the womb (organ development, fat accrual, lean tissue growth) can modify their metabolism, cardiovascular function, neurological development, and their risk of future disease.
This concept is referred to as the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, or Barker, Hypothesis (so named after David Barker, MD)
Currently, we are studying the effect of maternal obesity on placental lipid handling. Lipids are critical for proper fetal development (think cell membranes!), but the fetus is unable to synthesize lipids at the rate required to fulfill its developmental requirements. The placenta is not capable of making these essential fatty acids either, and so the fetus relies on maternal supply and placental transfer of these critical nutrients for development. Thus, changes to placental fatty acid transport have serious implications for fetal growth and long-term health.
This is a big topic and we have several projects under this umbrella. Click on the links below to learn more about individual projects: