My laboratory is interested in environmental factors (contaminants, stress, depression, pathogens and drugs) and obstetrical complications (preeclampsia, preterm delivery and gestational diabetes) as well as the role/impact of fetal sex on placental endocrine function and fetal development. We are particularly interested in understanding the role and mechanisms of action of serotonin and melatonin in placental function and fetal development.
Our team has demonstrated that serotonin and melatonin are produced de novo by the placenta and play a crucial role in the development of the fetal heart and brain. The placenta is a multifunctional organ essential for mammalian development. A malfunctioning placenta can lead to miscarriage, slowed fetal growth or premature birth, as well as lifelong health effects. Our research program has focused on the effect of maternal prenatal stress, depression, pharmaceutical drugs, and chemical toxins on placental function as a novel approach to determine potential teratogenicity and toxicity.
Our research hypothesis is that exposure to environmental factors during pregnancy induces alterations/adaptations in placental serotonin and melatonin, glucocorticoid system as well as endocrine function and consequently on fetal development in a sex-specific manner. The mother-placenta-fetus relationship presents an original approach to examine the effects of environmental factors, drugs and maternal stress/depression that may have long-term consequences on fetal development and programming.
Our ongoing studies also aim to develop a new model (co-culture model and placenta-on-chip) to study the impact of environmental factors and pathogens on the mother-placenta-fetus axis. The goal is that this new technology will both accelerate discovery and allow for more elaborate experimental designs than before, to the benefit of our research program and those of our collaborators. Our long-term goal is to improve the health of pregnant women and their offspring.