Wlodek Laboratory: Fetal, Postnatal & Adult Physiology & Disease Laboratory

Research Overview

The environment in early life has a major impact on a healthy start to life as well as lifelong health and disease risk. Being born small for gestational age (~10% of all births) remains a major problem for obstetric and perinatal medicine because it increases morbidity and mortality around the time of birth. Many studies worldwide have shown that babies born small are at increased risk of developing adult cardiovascular, renal and metabolic disease, the major causes of death and disability in Australia. Our group is renowned for the successful experimental model that mimics human growth profiles, organ deficits and phenotypes observed in babies born small who are susceptible to adult diseases. My laboratory is internationally recognised as one of the few in the world performing complex whole animal physiological studies exploring of the adult, pregnancy and transgenerational consequences of being born small. Using strategic and interdisciplinary collaborations, across Institutions, Industry and Faculties, I maximise research opportunities from my complex and long term animal studies to explore gender-specific clinically relevant disease outcomes. Critical to translational outcomes is the incorporation of various innovative treatments and interventions including nutritional (cross-fostering, diet), exercise, pregnancy, transgenerational (heritable vs maternal environment by embryo transfer) and impact of stress and alcohol during pregnancy. Our studies have substantially advanced our understanding of the consequences of being born small and have led to a sustained and accelerating series of highly cited publications in highly ranked journals.

To address our research aims we employ a number of approaches including uteroplacental insufficiency surgery to induce fetal growth restriction, embryo transfer techniques to identify maternal vs fetal influences and cross-fostering to determine prenatal vs postnatal influences. In our models we explore the beneficial impact of endurance exercise training and characterise activity and open circuit indirect calorimetry (Comprehensive Lab Animal Management System). We use a range of in vivo techniques to measure rat physiological parameters including postnatal milk intake and composition, growth, food intake and body composition, telemetry and tail-cuff blood pressure, renal function, intraperitoneal glucose tolerance test, insulin challenge test and echocardiography. Our in vitro analytical approaches include real-time PCR, Western Blotting, unbiased sterology to determine nephron and cardiomyocyte number, DXA & pQCT bone analysis, histology/immunohistochemistry as well as hormone, metabolite, electrolyte, growth factor measurements.

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Staff

Dr Deanne Skelly, Lecturer
Andrew Jefferies, Research Assistant
Lisa Jedwab, Honours Student
Saher Kharal, Honours Student
Evelyn McArthur, Honours Student
Sogand Hosseini, Masters Student
Kristina Anevska, PhD Student
Yasmin Asif, PhD Student
Jean Cheong, PhD Student
Jessica Griffith, PhD Student
Maria Jelinic, PhD Student
Dayana Mahizir, PhD Student
Jordanna Master , PhD Student
Pragati Sharma, PhD Student