The focus of our research is to understand how in vitro fertilization (IVF) and in vitro culture prior to implantation in the uterus of the mother affect fetal and adult development. This has particular relevance in light of the widespread use of artificial reproductive techniques. In fact, fetal adaptations in utero to adverse conditions can lead to specific diseases in the adult, including diabetes, high blood pressure and coronary heart disease. This phenomenon, termed the developmental origin of adult health and disease or the Barker hypothesis, has been extrapolated back to preimplantation development.
We are creating a mouse model of IVF for analyzing the long-term impact of these procedures on health. One avenue of research will analyze changes in gene expression using microarray technology in pre-implantation mouse blastocysts cultured in different media and oxygen concentrations. Changes in gene expression observed in the blastocyst will be followed in the developing embryo, newborn and sexually mature animal. The goal of this study is to identify important metabolic and signaling pathways modified by IVF procedures that could lead to disease in later life.
In addition, we will analyze how the method of fertilization (in vitro or in vivo) and different culture conditions affect the process of implantation in the mouse embryo. For this purpose, the developmental and differentiation potential of murine trophoblastic stem cells generated in vivo or in vitro is studied.