Department of Biological and Medical Sciences


  • The research interests of the Perinatal Physiology group are in mammalian endocrinology and the endocrine regulation of physiology and development, especially in fetal and early postnatal life.  Using an integrative approach and a variety of research techniques, we investigate the growth and development of the fetus, and the maturational changes in physiological systems that enable neonatal survival at birth.  The research findings have important implications for the understanding of normal fetal growth and development, the consequences of prematurity and fetal endocrine disorders, and the mechanisms underlying the intrauterine programming of adult (patho)physiology.

    Currently, our research work is focussed on two main areas: 

    Development and regulation of endocrine systems in the fetus

    Our studies examine the bioavailability of hormones in the fetus, in particular, glucocorticoids, thyroid hormones, leptin, insulin-like growth factors and the renin-angiotensin system.  Our analyses of hormone systems in utero include measurements of circulating concentrations, tissue metabolism and metabolic enzymes, cellular uptake mechanisms and receptor expression.  These studies have demonstrated complex interactions between endocrine systems before birth and have elucidated a variety of cellular and molecular mechanisms of developmental control.

    Endocrine control of fetal growth, development and maturation

    Our research also investigates the role of hormones in the regulation of normal fetal development.  These studies have an integrative approach to systems animal biology by examining a wide variety of fetal tissues and organs, and aspects of fetal physiology, including growth, cardiovascular and renal function, nutrition and metabolism.  In particular, several of these studies have established the importance of endocrine signals in maturation of fetal tissues near to delivery and in the successful transition from the intrauterine to extrauterine environment at birth.  We investigate the mechanisms of glucocorticoid action in several physiological systems, and have demonstrated the important roles of other hormones, such as thyroid hormones, leptin and angiotensin II, in mediating many of the maturational effects of glucocorticoids.