Reproductive Sciences Research

The following academic researchers are members of this division: Dr. Denise Hemmings (Division Director), Dr. Christy-Lynn Cooke, Dr. Sandy Davidge, Dr. David Olson, Dr. Maria Ospina and Dr. Meghan Riddell.

All investigators currently have funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) or other international, national and local sources for specific and/or collaborative projects. There are extensive collaborations within the Division, the Department and with other national or international groups. The following is a brief summary of the current research activities for each research team.

Dr. Denise Hemmings

The Hemmings laboratory focuses on understanding the dual vascular functions of sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P), a bioactive lipid, on permeability, vascular tone and their inter-regulation. The laboratory is interested in S1P-mediated vascular and placental 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.

Dr. Christy-Lynn Cooke

The risk of pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia and fetal growth restriction is particularly high in women of advanced maternal age (>35 years old). Further, it is well-established that long-term health for women and their children is impacted following complicated pregnancies, including an increased risk of cardio-metabolic disease in adulthood. Our research focuses on studying the underlying vascular and cellular mechanisms contributing to adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as preeclampsia, with advanced maternal age. Experiments involve examining ex vivo function of blood vessels from animal models as well as from human tissue (obtained from pregnant women at the time of cesarean section). We also collaborate together with industry to develop novel, targeted therapies to modulate maternal vascular function with the hopes of improving vascular function (and thus health outcomes) for both women and their offspring.

Dr. Sandra Davidge

The focus of the Davidge laboratory is understanding the mechanisms of cardiovascular dysfunction in complicated pregnancies for both the mother and her offspring. The laboratory has three complementary programs that includes the investigation for the causes and consequences of preeclampsia, determining the consequence of maternal aging on pregnancy outcomes and addressing the mechanisms for the cardiovascular pathophysiology from the offspring [a field termed Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD)].

Dr. David Olson

The Olson laboratory studies preterm birth from environmental stress, gene-environment, mechanistic, predictive and therapeutic perspectives. The focus of recent studies is on allostatic load and inflammatory pathways as factors leading to preterm birth. Collaborative efforts with international groups are aimed at bringing diagnostic and therapeutic research products into clinical utilization.

Dr. Maria Ospina
Lab Group:

The Ospina team apply advanced epidemiological methods to evaluate life-course models of gestational and perinatal exposures/events and the development of chronic diseases in both mother and child. A special emphasis is given to the role of social determinants of health on shaping health trajectories in critical periods of human life.

Dr. Meghan Riddell

The Riddell laboratory is interested in placental morphogenesis and the pathogenesis of common pregnancy complications. We are particularly interested in the formation and function/dysfunction of two different cell types: 1) the trophoblasts; a placental specific cell lineage 2) endothelial cells; the cells that form the lining of blood vessels. Studies are carried out using biochemistry and cell biology techniques in order to understand molecular mechanisms at a cellular level.