About the Sloboda Lab

The Bugs That Shape Us: the Maternal Microbiome and Offspring Obesity

Late pregnancy is characterized by maternal inflammation, insulin and leptin resistance and it has been proposed that these changes involve the maternal gut microbiome. In these studies, we investigate how shifts in the pregnant gut microbiome affect maternal adaptation to pregnancy and impact placental and fetal development. These studies are part of our long-term goal of determining the underlying early life precipitating factors that confer an increased risk of obesity and metabolic disease in offspring of obese mothers.

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Parental Micronutrient Imbalances Impacts on Placental Nutrient Transfer

Maternal adaptation to pregnancy is critical for fetal growth. The placenta is the interface between the mother and fetus; it is critical for the survival of the fetus. Placental growth and development is vulnerable to the intrauterine environment, adapting to maternal signals, modifying its growth and function. Our lab studies the role of the placenta in mediating intrauterine impacts on the fetus and seeks to determine which placental signalling pathways modulate the developmental programming of offspring phenotype.

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The Mothers to Babies Study (M2B)

Studies in populations experiencing vulnerability suggest that behavioural interventions can be effective in improving health but that such interventions tend to be intensive and expensive. It may be more effective therefore to intervene during pregnancy, where we will have the most benefit to the next generation. Little is known about how best to engage and support pregnant people.
 
The M2B Study team ​​comprises an interdisciplinary group of maternal and child health researchers, with interests in developing public health interventions that will reduce inequities in health knowledge and nutrition-related behaviour during pregnancy. In collaboration with community groups supporting pregnant women in Hamilton ON, we are developing complex behavioural interventions that use educators and health practitioners trained in Healthy Conversation Skills to engage pregnant people and people likely to become pregnant in improving their diets and lifestyles.

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Maternal Nutritional Impacts on Offspring Reproduction

The perinatal nutritional environment independently and critically impacts offspring risk of obesity and susceptibility to metabolic compromise, and altered reproductive function can now be added to this list. We have shown that fetal adaptations to perinatal adversity significantly advances puberty and impairs ovarian function in offspring. We have shown that maternal nutrient restriction induces in offspring an early ovarian aging phenotype, characterized by a loss of ovarian follicular reserve. We are now investigating whether germ cell development impacts on long term transgenerational disease risk through epigenetic regulation of gene expression patterns really early in embryonic development.

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The Canadian Teens Experiencing COVID-19 Study (CanTeC-19)

The CanTeC-19 is a project within a global network of researchers exploring how COVID-19 is impacting teenagers from developed and developing nations, different neighbourhoods, and different family and cultural backgrounds in each country. The study focuses on teenagers because this is a stage of life where people go through many important transitions such as moving from middle school to high school or entering the paid workforce for the first time. The study combined the perspectives and ideas of teenagers with those from our local connections and partners to develop ways that we can support teenagers during COVID-19

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The Sloboda Lab is a lab based out of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. It studies how early life adversity impacts fetal development, and how these changes to development influence the risk of chronic disease later in life.