Supervisor: Sandra Davidge
Project: How complicated pregnancies affect maternal health later in life
Bachelor of Science with Honors in Physiology
What's been the best part of your experience so far?
The best part of my experience has been taking off the experimental training wheels. Graduating from learning techniques to carrying out legitimate experiments and collecting the corresponding data gave me a sense of independence and accomplishment with tangible results. I have great mentors within the lab who further enrich the experience and make it more enjoyable.
What has WCHRI's support through the Foundations for your studentship meant to you?
As someone with meagre research experience, the support from WCHRI, the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation and supporters of the Lois Hole Hospital for Women, has allowed me to immerse myself in a laboratory setting and gain experience with a number of techniques, garnering confidence before completing my undergraduate thesis in the upcoming year. Furthermore, this studentship allows for the development of my presentation skills at a variety of research days and builds connections with researchers and students alike. While immediately beneficial, this studentship also provides a foundation for success following graduation through the variety of professional skills I have exercised.
A prevalent threat to maternal health is preeclampsia. Specific to pregnancy, this syndrome is characterized by hypertension and predisposes one to cardiovascular complications later in life. Cardiovascular complications are one of the main causes of death in women over the age of 55 in Canada, including complications associated with atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis results in the deposition of fat in blood vessels, thereby reducing blood flow and leading to heart and blood vessel complications. It is therefore important to identify the mechanisms by which preeclampsia negatively impacts maternal health even many years after childbirth. Our lab has been studying the role of a key receptor in preeclampsia called LOX-1, which is elevated in the vasculature of women with preeclampsia and is associated with blood vessel dysfunction by promoting damaging events. Other factors associated with LOX-1 such as "bad cholesterol" are increased in these women, suggesting a potential role of LOX-1 in the postpartum effect of preeclampsia on maternal blood vessel function. Interestingly, LOX-1 has been studied with regards to other diseases such as obesity and diabetes, however, this mechanism has not been investigated in women with a history of preeclampsia. Using an animal model of preeclampsia, we can evaluate the changes associated with atherosclerosis in postpartum vasculature. These changes affect both the morphology and function of blood vessels. Our goal is to further define the pathways leading to the detrimental long-term effects a preeclamptic pregnancy has on women's (cardio)vascular health in order to develop new therapeutic strategies.