The role of pregnancy complications on the developmental programming of cardio-metabolic disease in offspring

Project Code: 24134

Faculty: Liggins Institute

Department: Liggins Institute

Main Supervisor: Dr Mark Vickers

Application open date: 08 Jul 2015

Application deadline:

Enrolment information: NZ Citizens, NZ Permanent Residents


Pregnancy complications such as preterm birth, preeclampsia and problems brought about by maternal obesity are now know to increase a childs risk to develop a range of metabolic and cardiovascular disorders in later life. Termed as the ‘developmental origins of adult disease’, our work has progressed to suggest a link by which maternal diet and/or pregnancy complications during the plastic phase of development, determines the offspring’s cardiovascular status during adulthood. This is underpinned by epigenetic and differential miRNA (microRNA) expression causing permanent alterations in tissue architecture, cell number and function including gene expression, determining intrauterine growth and the physiological set-points the offspring may have for life. However, the mechanisms are poorly defined.

What we are looking for in a successful applicant

The applicant should have a background in a relevant biological science and a broad interest in physiology, fetal development, cardiovascular development/disease and/or nutrition.


We anticipate results from this project will provide valuable insight into the mechanisms which govern the developmental origins of cardiovascular disease derived from common pregnancy complications caused by maternal obesity and related fetal growth restriction (FGR) and/or preterm birth. Given our previous validated work demonstrating the detrimental effects of a maternal high-fat diet on FGR offspring, placental insufficiency and subsequent cardio-metabolic dysfunction in adult offspring, this project will further advance the understanding of underlying mechanisms governing early-life development and predisposition to adult disease states.

Other information

Skills Taught

This project will utilise a range of experimental protocols including various experimental models, miRNA and gene expression profiling, protein analysis, histology, pressure myography, langendorf heart preparations and blood pressure measurement.