1. Maternal obesity and microRNA-142
Obesity affects 1 in 7 pregnant women. Women with obesity are more likely than healthy weight women to suffer from pregnancy complications and their babies grow too rapidly and can have heart problems. My previous research has shown that hormones like apelin and adiponectin play a role in regulating excess placental nutrient transport, in maternal obesity. Currently, I am investigating the role of microRNA-142 as a signal affecting the fetal heart.
2. Fetal growth restriction, placental amino acid transport and apelin
Fetal growth restriction (FGR) severely compromises neonatal survival and lifelong health. There is currently no cure, and the underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. I recently made the first demonstration that a placental amino acid transporter called SNAT2 (sodium-coupled neutral amino acid transporter 2) is mechanistically involved in FGR. I am now developing new treatments to improve placental function in FGR, including investigating apelin signaling as a therapeutic target.
3. Antenatal glucocorticoids and placental function
Glucocorticoids (steroids) are given to pregnant women at risk of preterm delivery, to substantially improve perinatal survival by maturing the fetus. However, they are also stress hormones and some antenatal glucocorticoid administration strategies are associated with reduced size at birth and metabolic dysfunction in the child. My work has shown that elevated maternal glucocorticoids reduce placental vascularity and nutrient transport in experimental animals, indicating that monitoring placental function may mitigate the unwanted side effects of antenatal glucocorticoids on fetal growth. We are currently exploring the signaling mechanisms underlying the beneficial, haemodynamic effects of glucocorticoids, on umbilical blood flow.