Graduate Research Seminar

On Monday 7 March Katie Skeffington (PhD in in Metabolic and Cardiovascular Science) will deliver the final of this term's Graduate Research Seminars with a talk entitled "The role of mitochondrial oxidative stress in the developmental programming of cardiovascular disease."

Cardiovascular disease is the biggest killer in the UK. The risk of developing cardiovascular disease is well known to be dependent on genetic and environmental factors, however it is becoming clear that there is also an effect of the environment before birth. One common consequence of complicated pregnancy is fetal hypoxia.

In my PhD we studied the effects of hypoxia during development on cardiovascular function both before birth and during adulthood. We choose to do this using the chicken as a model, as this allows us to separate the effects directly on the fetus from effects on the maternal or placental physiology. We found that incubating chicken eggs under hypoxic conditions lead to the development of chick embryos with significant cardiovascular dysfunction including dilated cardiomyopathy, impaired cardiac function and impaired vascular relaxation. By adulthood, chickens which were hypoxic during development tend to be hypertensive and have increased cardiac work. We also studied the contribution of mitochondrial oxidative stress to the disease process by treating developing embryos with the mitochondrial targeted antioxidant, MitoQ. MitoQ treatment of hypoxic chickens improved some aspects of cardiovascular function but not all, suggesting that mitochondrial derived oxidative stress is only partly responsible for the programming of cardiovascular disease by hypoxic development.

The graduate research seminar provides an opportunity for our graduate students and research fellows to discuss their work before an astute and very friendly audience. Because this mixed audience includes not only expert insiders, but also intelligent and interested outsiders, this is also an opportunity for speakers to hone their communicative skills, and for the rest of us to be exposed to unfamiliar problems, methodologies and theories.

Meetings begin at 12:45 in the Senior Combination Room, where a free buffet lunch is provided. The speakers kick off at 1:00, and finish by 1:30, giving us a quarter of an hour for questions and discussion.