Metabolism and Development

The mother’s diet during pregnancy not only affects the growth of the baby but also programmes its metabolism, modifying the subsequent risk of disease later in adult life.

It is important to understand how the balance of nutrients, vitamins and minerals in the mother’s diet alters the development of the baby. To do this we are looking for markers of normal development so that we can measure how changes in the mother’s diet affect the baby.

This research will help doctors and policy makers to give effective advice on diet in pregnancy.

Research Focus

The periods of rapid cell proliferation encountered during fetal life are uniquely sensitive to nutritional perturbation. Restrictions and deficiencies in the maternal diet produce long lasting changes in the growth of the internal organs and may underlie the association between poor growth in utero and the later development of hypertension and type-2 (non-insulin dependent) diabetes mellitus in adulthood. We are interested in the interactions between nutrients in the maternal diet, the establishment of cellular communications and the expression of genes which regulate the growth of the fetus.

Our research aims to

  • Understand how nutrients in the mothers diet interact to regulate fetal growth. We are interested in how a deficiency of one nutrient can impact on the metabolism of another
  • Identify the important metabolic pathways and measure the flow of metabolites through them
  • Investigate the gene nutrient interactions that influence fetal development and how these changes impact on the long term health of the offspring.
  • Hay, SM., McArdle, HJ., Hayes, HE., Stevens, VJ. & Rees, WD. (2016). 'The effect of iron deficiency on the temporal changes in the expression of genes associated with fat metabolism in the pregnant rat'. Physiological reports, vol 4, no. 21, e12908.
    [Online] DOI: 10.14814/phy2.12908
    [Online] AURA: e12908.full.pdf
  • Williams, LM., Campbell, FM., Drew, JE., Koch, C., Hoggard, N., Rees, WD., Kamolrat, T., Thi Ngo, H., Steffensen, I-L, Gray, SR. & Tups, A. (2014). 'The development of diet-induced obesity and glucose intolerance in C57BL/6 mice on a high-fat diet consists of distinct phases'. PloS one, vol 9, no. 8, e106159.
    [Online] DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0106159
    [Online] AURA: 2014Williamsetal_PLOSone_.pdf
  • Rees, WD. & Hay, SM. (2014). 'Lipocalin-2 (Lcn2) expression is mediated by maternal nutrition during the development of the fetal liver'. Genes & Nutrition, vol 9, no. 1, 380.
    [Online] DOI: 10.1007/s12263-013-0380-4
  • Maloney, CA., Hay, SM., Reid, MD., Duncan, G., Nicol, F., Sinclair, KD. & Rees, WD. (2013). 'A methyl-deficient diet fed to rats during the pre- and peri-conception periods of development modifies the hepatic proteome in the adult offspring'. Genes & Nutrition, vol 8, no. 2, pp. 181-190.
    [Online] DOI: 10.1007/s12263-012-0314-6
  • Wilson, FA., Holtrop, G., Calder, AG., Anderson, SE., Lobley, GE. & Rees, W. (2012). 'The effects of methyl-deficient diets on methionine and homocysteine metabolism in the pregnant rat'. American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism, vol 302, no. 12, pp. E1531-E1540.
    [Online] DOI: 10.1152/ajpendo.00668.2011
  • Maloney, C., Hay, S., Young, L., Sinclair, K. & Rees, W. (2011). 'A methyl-deficient diet fed to rat dams during the peri-conception period programs glucose homeostasis in adult male but not female offspring'. The journal of nutrition, vol 141, no. 1, pp. 95-100.
    [Online] DOI: 10.3945/jn.109.119453
Additional Activities
  • Deputy Editor for the British Journal of Nutrition