Duncan Sparrow - Cardiac Sciences / Development & Cell Biology / Metabolism & Endocrinology - 'How does maternal diabetes cause congenital heart disease?'
Congenital heart disease (CHD), where a baby’s heart does not form properly in the womb, is the most common birth defect, affecting 1% of all babies. Even with the advent of modern surgical correction techniques, it is the major cause of infant mortality and morbidity, requiring lifelong medical treatment. However, we do not always know why it happens. One-third of cases result from a genetic fault, but in the other two-thirds of cases the cause is less clear. Some of the latter result from the embryo being exposed to an abnormal environment in the womb in early pregnancy. This project will investigate the effects of one particular, highly prevalent environmental factor (maternal diabetes) on embryonic development using a mouse model system. Both type I and type II diabetes in humans can cause a suite of birth defects including severe CHD. However, little is known of how maternal diabetes effects embryonic heart development. We have created a mouse model that recapitulates the CHD seen in humans. This project will use a combination of morphological and molecular methods to discover how this factor causes CHD.