Faculty Members

Dr. Denise Hemmings

Associate Professor

Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology

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

About Me

Dr. Denise Hemmings obtained her PhD in Medical Microbiology and Immunology (MMI) in 2001 with Dr. Larry Guilbert and did a post-doctoral fellowship with Dr. Sandra Davidge at the University of Alberta (U of A). She is an Associate Professor in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, cross-appointed in MMI at U of A, recipient of a CIHR New Investigator award in 2010 and the former Chair of Women in Scholarship, Engineering, Science and Technology (WISEST). Her lab investigates the impact of chronic infection with cytomegalovirus (CMV), a Herpesvirus, in breast cancer and also its impact on metabolic and vascular dysfunction in aging. The other major focus in Dr. Hemmings’ lab is to understand the dual vascular functions of sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P), a bioactive lipid, in pregnancy, namely permeability, vascular tone and their inter-regulation. She is interested in S1P-mediated vascular adaptations during pregnancy and the factors that disrupt these responses such as elevated proinflammatory cytokines, leading to pregnancies complicated by preeclampsia and intrauterine growth restriction. One mechanism by which S1P signalling pathways may be disrupted is maternal infection with CMV. The impact of this normally innocuous virus infection on vascular function, placental development and immunological adaptations, particularly with respect to S1P signalling during pregnancy, form part of her research program. Dr. Hemmings is funded by operating grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. Dr. Hemmings serves on several student advisory committees and reviews for many journals and funding agencies. She has a passion for training students and since her appointment in 2005 has trained or mentored more than 60 students from the junior high school to the post-doctoral fellow level. Through her connections with WISEST, she is passionate about encouraging young women to enter, stay and advance in science, engineering and technology careers. As the Graduate Program Coordinator and the Reproductive Sciences Division Director, Dr. Hemmings also encourages students and staff in the basic sciences to step outside of their comfortable scientific boundaries to forge interdisciplinary links with clinicians and epidemiologists.


Research

The Hemmings laboratory focuses on understanding the dual vascular functions of sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P), a bioactive lipid, namely permeability, vascular tone and their inter-regulation. The laboratory is interested in S1P-mediated vascular adaptations during pregnancy and the factors that disrupt these responses leading to pregnancies complicated by preeclampsia and intrauterine growth restriction. These factors include infection with cytomegalovirus (CMV), a Herpesvirus, and elevated proinflammatory cytokines. The Hemmings laboratory also investigates the impact of chronic CMV infections on metabolic and vascular dysfunction in aging and in breast cancer.



Research Keywords

Adipose tissue, Aging, Autotaxin, Breast cancer, Cytomegalovirus, Endothelial permeability , Inflammatory cytokines, Metabolic function, Oxidative stress, Placenta, Sphingosine 1-phosphate, Vascular function