Four leading researchers named to Royal Society of Canada
Why some are more susceptible to cardiovascular disease than others, even when taking into account life-modifying factors like smoking and exercise, boils down to developmental aspects that start in the womb, according to a global authority on vascular pathophysiology in the pregnancy complication of pre-eclampsia.
“It sets the stage,” said Sandra Davidge, Distinguished University Professor in the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry and executive director of the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute.
“It’s an evolution of a chronic disease. For instance, susceptibility for cardiovascular disease can actually start in the womb.”
Davidge’s lab was one of the first to show that this low oxygen supply to the fetus has an impact on their cardiovascular health later in life, dramatically reducing the heart’s ability to withstand secondary stressors.
“Now, in our experimental approaches we can treat the placenta and come up with improved outcomes later in life,” she said. “Pregnancy is not just about nine months—it impacts both the mother’s cardiovascular health later in life as well as her offspring; thus the population as a whole benefits from our focus for improving pregnancy outcomes.”
Being a global leader in improving pregnancy outcomes and improving the long-term health of both mother and child has paved the way for Davidge to be named to the Royal Society of Canada (RSC), the country’s oldest and most prestigious scholarly institute.
Joining Davidge as part of the 2021 class of RSC fellows from the U of A is environmental toxicologist Xingfang Li. In addition, health researcher Carla Prado and archeologist Kisha Supernant have been named to the society’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists.
Davidge noted she is proud the work being done in her lab is recognized and supported by internationally renowned scientists in both the cardiovascular field and pregnancy research field.
“My research area in women and children’s health is often under-represented and its broader impact on society is not always appreciated,” she said. “Thus, this recognition by the Royal Society of Canada elevates the importance of this research as a whole.”