Postgraduate Profiles

Michaela Wharfe

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Thesis: Maternal adaptation to pregnancy: Changes in circadian expression during mouse gestation

The aim of this project is to characterise clock gene expression changes in maternal peripheral tissues during pregnancy in the mouse, in order to understand how circadian rhythms change with pregnancy and the role clock genes may play in metabolic adaptations during gestation. Currently, very few studies have examined clock gene expression across pregnancy to determine whether pregnancy per se impacts on circadian variation at the molecular level and in turn how this relates to changes in metabolic processes seen with pregnancy.

Why my research is important

This information will be particularly useful in expanding our understanding of maternal adaptations to pregnancy, specifically of metabolic changes. If clock gene and clock-controlled genes play a contributory role in bringing about metabolic adaptions then this could alter stage-determined treatment regimes and have far reaching consequences for many metabolic studies already conducted within a pregnant setting. A multitude of recent studies have noted that disturbances in clock gene expression are linked to a wide range of disorders including sleep and metabolic disorders, as well as cancer (Filipski et al., 2004; Filipski, Mei Li, & Levi, 2006; Knutsson, 2003; Sookoian et al., 2007). With the increasing prevalence of shift work in our society, particularly during pregnancy, this is becoming an important area of investigation. Evidence shows that changes to circadian rhythms during pregnancy can be detrimental for the health of the fetus and may have long term programming effects (Varcoe, Wight, Voultsios, Salkeld, & Kennaway, 2011), therefore, determining maternal clock gene expression changes and their downstream effects during pregnancy is important for our understanding of the role of clock genes in pregnancy.

Jun 2011

Dec 2014