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Centre for Trophoblast Research


Placental hormones and pregnancy health in obese mothers

Obesity during pregnancy affects maternal and infant health both during pregnancy and for long afterwards. It raises the risk of health complications like maternal diabetes during pregnancy, and increases the susceptibility of the mother to develop metabolic syndrome in the years after delivery. It also leads to neonatal and later life health complications in their infants, such that infants are more prone to develop metabolic impairments themselves in later life. Despite this, the mechanisms operating during pregnancy that lead to these poor pregnancy outcomes in obese women, remain unknown. The placenta is the organ that produces hormones responsible for changing the metabolism of the mother to ensure sufficient nutrients are available for fetal growth during pregnancy. However, to date, little is known about the role of placental hormone production and its relationship to obesity-related factors (such as oxidative stress and inflammation), in the development of maternal metabolic complications in pregnancies where the mother is obese. This study aims to identify the importance of placental hormone production for maternal metabolism and offspring health in pregnancies where the mother is obese. It will use samples from pregnant mice that are lean or obese (due to a diet high in sugar and fat) and sequencing and histological methods to characterise the effect of obesity on the placental production of hormones with metabolic effects. It will also use metabolic, molecular and biochemical assays to assess the mother’s ability to use glucose and respond to insulin in obese mice with and without a genetic defect in the placenta that disrupts placental hormone production. It will also use molecular and biochemical assays to determine the levels of oxidative stress and inflammatory mediators in these pregnancies to identify the extent to which placental- and/or obesity-related factors explain the maladaptions of maternal metabolism when the mother is obese. The metabolic health of the offspring of these pregnancies will also monitored to identify the relevance of placental hormone production in the programming of metabolic disease in children of obese mothers.


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