Human Pregnancy in Health and Disease
Our international research team is examining human gene expression* (i.e. genes "in action") in the context of pregnancy in healthy women and women with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) to understand what genes are being turned on or off in the mother before, during and after pregnancy.
* Unlike "genetic testing" which only shows what version of a gene is present, "gene expression" assesses to what extent a gene is switched on at a specific point in time, by measuring the amount of "RNA" it produces.
This research will enable us to understand:
(a) what normal biological changes occur in the mother during pregnancy and after child-birth,
(b) why women are at higher risk of developing some cancers (breast cancer) and autoimmune diseases (e.g. thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis) in the months following child-birth.
Women with some autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and multiple sclerosis (MS) often experience (i) a natural improvement of their symptoms during pregnancy, and (ii) a predictable return of the symptoms 3-6 months after child-birth.
Why this happens is currently unknown.
Our data provide snapshots of the maternal "environment" that the fetus is exposed to in each trimester of pregnancy.
These will allow us to examine the patterns of maternal genes that are turned on/off
during pregnancy in relation to:
(a) birth outcomes,
(b) long-term health of the children born