A pinboard by
Jack Darby

PhD Student, University of South Australia


Babies born with a low birth weight as a result of not receiving enough nutrients or oxygen during gestation are at an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease in adult life. My research focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms that may be behind this predisposition so that we may be able to develop effective intervention strategies.


Activation of IGF-2R stimulates cardiomyocyte hypertrophy in the late gestation sheep fetus.

Abstract: In vitro studies using rat and fetal sheep cardiomyocytes indicate that, in addition to its role as a clearance receptor, the insulin-like growth factor 2 receptor (IGF-2R) can induce cardiomyocyte hypertrophy. In the present study, we have determined the effect of specific activation of the IGF-2R in the heart of the late gestation fetus on cardiomyocyte development. Leu(27)IGF-2, an IGF-2R agonist, was infused into the fetal left circumflex coronary artery for 4 days beginning at 128.1 ± 0.4 days gestation. Ewes were humanely killed at 132.2 ± 1.2 days gestation (term, 150 days). Fetuses were delivered and hearts dissected to isolate the cardiomyocytes and to collect and snap-freeze tissue. Leu(27)IGF-2 infusion into the left circumflex coronary artery of fetal sheep increased the area of binucleated cardiomyocytes in the left, but not the right, ventricle. However, this infusion of Leu(27)IGF-2 did not change fetal weight, heart weight, blood pressure, blood gases or cardiomyocyte proliferation/binucleation. The increase in cardiomyocyte size in the Leu(27)IGF-2-infused group was associated with increased expression of proteins in the Gαs, but not the Gαq, signalling pathway. We concluded that infusion of Leu(27)IGF-2 into the left circumflex coronary artery causes cardiac IGF-2R activation in the left ventricle of the heart, and this stimulates cardiomyocyte hypertrophy in a Gαs-dependent manner.

Pub.: 30 Aug '12, Pinned: 28 Mar '18

Developmental programming of cardiovascular dysfunction by prenatal hypoxia and oxidative stress.

Abstract: Fetal hypoxia is a common complication of pregnancy. It has been shown to programme cardiac and endothelial dysfunction in the offspring in adult life. However, the mechanisms via which this occurs remain elusive, precluding the identification of potential therapy. Using an integrative approach at the isolated organ, cellular and molecular levels, we tested the hypothesis that oxidative stress in the fetal heart and vasculature underlies the molecular basis via which prenatal hypoxia programmes cardiovascular dysfunction in later life. In a longitudinal study, the effects of maternal treatment of hypoxic (13% O(2)) pregnancy with an antioxidant on the cardiovascular system of the offspring at the end of gestation and at adulthood were studied. On day 6 of pregnancy, rats (n = 20 per group) were exposed to normoxia or hypoxia ± vitamin C. At gestational day 20, tissues were collected from 1 male fetus per litter per group (n = 10). The remaining 10 litters per group were allowed to deliver. At 4 months, tissues from 1 male adult offspring per litter per group were either perfusion fixed, frozen, or dissected for isolated organ preparations. In the fetus, hypoxic pregnancy promoted aortic thickening with enhanced nitrotyrosine staining and an increase in cardiac HSP70 expression. By adulthood, offspring of hypoxic pregnancy had markedly impaired NO-dependent relaxation in femoral resistance arteries, and increased myocardial contractility with sympathetic dominance. Maternal vitamin C prevented these effects in fetal and adult offspring of hypoxic pregnancy. The data offer insight to mechanism and thereby possible targets for intervention against developmental origins of cardiac and peripheral vascular dysfunction in offspring of risky pregnancy.

Pub.: 22 Feb '12, Pinned: 28 Mar '18

Restriction of placental function alters heart development in the sheep fetus.

Abstract: Placental insufficiency, resulting in restriction of fetal substrate supply, is a major cause of intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) and increased neonatal morbidity. Fetal adaptations to placental restriction maintain the growth of key organs, including the heart, but the impact of these adaptations on individual cardiomyocytes is unknown. Placental and hence fetal growth restriction was induced in fetal sheep by removing the majority of caruncles in the ewe before mating (placental restriction, PR). Vascular surgery was performed on 13 control and 11 PR fetuses at 110-125 days of gestation (term: 150 +/- 3 days). PR fetuses with a mean gestational Po(2) < 17 mmHg were defined as hypoxic. At postmortem (<135 or >135 days), fetal hearts were collected, and cardiomyocytes were isolated and fixed. Proliferating cardiomyocytes were counted by immunohistochemistry of Ki67 protein. Cardiomyocytes were stained with methylene blue to visualize the nuclei, and the proportion of mononucleated cells and length and width of cardiomyocytes were measured. PR resulted in chronic fetal hypoxia, IUGR, and elevated plasma cortisol concentrations. Although there was no difference in relative heart weights between control and PR fetuses, there was an increase in the proportion of mononucleated cardiomyocytes in PR fetuses. Whereas mononucleated and binucleated cardiomyocytes were smaller, the relative size of cardiomyocytes when expressed relative to heart weight was larger in PR compared with control fetuses. The increase in the relative proportion of mononucleated cardiomyocytes and the relative sparing of the growth of individual cardiomyocytes in the growth-restricted fetus are adaptations that may have long-term consequences for heart development in postnatal life.

Pub.: 13 Apr '07, Pinned: 28 Mar '18