Dr. David Olson


Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology

Division of Reproductive Sciences
    Contact details are for academic matters only.

About Me

Place of Graduation: St. Louis University, 1981

Olson Lab 

Post-doctoral Fellowship: University of Western Ontario

Research Interests: Parturiton, preterm birth, fetal development


I manage the course, Fetal Physiology, PHYSIOLOGY 513, a senior undergraduate and graduate level course. It is a seminar style course exploring contemporary concepts in maternal pregnancy physiology, fetal development, parturition (birth) and new adaptation to independent life. Students in the course are expected to be self-learners and have considerable independence in selecting sub-topics for study. They each make several oral presentations to the class and write short papers. Improvement of oral and written communication skills, independent study and critical thinking abilities is emphasized.

I also accept senior undergraduate students in my laboratory who are enrolled in one-year research courses through their home departments or faculties.


I am a perinatal physiologist dedicated to improving women’s pregnancy health, fetal and newborn health. I study preterm birth/delivery (PTB, PTD), the leading global perinatal health problem.

1. Diagnostics & Therapeutics for Preterm Birth. We are developing new diagnostics and therapeutics for predicting and treating PTB. We developed a simple blood test that predicts delivery within 7 days (USA PCT Patent). With S Chemtob, W Lubell, and S Robertson we are studying the roles of IL-1b and IL-6 in PTB and fetal inflammation using highly precise small peptide allosteric receptor antagonists (rytvela and HSJ633). 1. Takeda J et al. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth 2017 Jan;17:16. PMID:28068953. 2. Nadeau-Vallée M et al. J Immunol 2015 Oct 1;19:3402- 15. PMID:26304990. 3. Nadeau-Vallée M et al. J Immunol 2017 Mar 1;198:2047-2062. PMID:28148737.

2. Maternal Prenatal Stress Leads to Preterm Birth and Adverse Offspring Development.With G Metz (ULethbridge) we surmised that the additive effects of stress might be associated with PTB. We developed transgenerational, multigenerational and multi-hit stress models in rats, and each demonstrated shortened gestation (PTB) and behavioural problems in offspring (F1). These were transmitted to the F2, F3 & F4 generations, likely by epigenetic means, as our microRNA data supports. We developed a new hypothesis indicating that elevated allostatic load is causal for PTB. This led to human work, demonstrating that adverse childhood experience and abuse (chronic stressors) prior to age 18 are associated with PTB at age 28. 1. Yao Y et al. BMC Medicine 2014 Aug 7;12:121. PMID:25286408. 2. Christiaens I et al. BMC Medicine 2015 Jun 11;13:124. PMID:26063042. 3. Olson DM et al. Int J Mol Sci 2015 Dec 15;16:29856-74. PMID: 26694355. 4. Verstraeten BSE et al. Biol Reprod 2018 Jul 30. PMID:30084951.

3. Uterine Transition. Our work over thirty years informed our conceptualization of the process of uterine transitioningfrom pregnancy to delivery, involution and return to monthly cycling. The key mediators are IL-1b, IL-6 and PGF2. Positive feedback is evident; IL-1b stimulates COX-2 and therefore PGF2 synthesis, but also FP expression, and, interestingly, its own synthesis, that of its receptor, IL-1R1, and its accessory proteins. This concept forms the theoretical basis for the effectiveness of IL1R and IL6R antagonists. 1. Robertson SA et al. Endocrinol 2010 Aug;151: 3996-4006. PMID: 20610570. 2. Xu C, et al. Mol Hum Reprod 2015 Jul;21:603-14. PMID:2588254. 3. Ishiguro T, et al. Physiol Rep 2016 Jul;4(14). PMID:27440742. 4. Leimert KB et al. Biol Reprod 2018 Oct.PMID:30379983. 5. Leimert KB et al. Biol Reprod 2019 Feb. PMID:30794283.

4. Basic Science of Parturition & Preterm Birth.We predicted then demonstrated that COX increases its enzyme activity and its mRNA expression of inducible COX-2 at term or preterm in human uterine tissues, and that this was stimulated by glucocorticoids and protein kinase C (PKC) activators. Then we showed that uterine FP mRNA is upregulated at delivery in mice, cloned and characterized the promoter region of the human FP gene, and showed a highly specific antagonist (THG113.3 by S Chemtob) delays PTB and uterine contractility in sheep. These studies identified the first two PTB drug targets in humans.1. Cook JL, et al. Biol Reprod 2003 Feb;68:579-87. PMID:12533422. 2.Zaragoza DB, et al. BBA 2004 Jan 20;1676:193-202. PMID: 14746914. 3. Hirst JJ, et al. AJOG 2005 Jul;193:256-66. PMID:16021088.

Research Keywords

parturition, immunology, leukocytes, perinatal programming, rat model, Pregnancy, immune system, IL-1, IL-6, monocytes, Preterm birth, inflammatory mechanisms, cytokines, Preterm birth, inflammatory mechanisms, cytokines,, preterm delivery, Stress questionnaire, China, abuse, stress, resiliency, brain, perinatal, programming,, Studentship, timing of birth

Team Members

Lab Manager: Dr. Sheena Fang, MD, PhD

Post-doctoral Fellow: Dr. Kelycia Leimert, PhD

Graduate Students: Ms. Nayara Lopes, Dr. Jane Ng, MD

Primary Collaborators: Dr. Sylvain Chemotob, Universite de Montreal, Dr. Gerlinde AS Metz, University of Lethbridge, Dr. Sarah Robertson, University of Adelaide, Dr. Kristina Adams Waldorf, University of Washington, Dr. Jeffrey Keelan, University of Western Australia, Dr. William Lubell, Universite de Montreal, Dr. Hongbo Qi, Chongqing Medical University