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Center for Women’s Health Research

Center for Womens Health Research
 

Stephanie R. Thorn, PhD


What is your research?

My research is focused on how maternal nutrition impacts the development of the fetus and how it affects the offspring later in life. Some of my studies are looking at overnutrition with a high fat diet, but the bulk of my studies are looking at undernutrition and Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR).  Working with sheep models where placental insufficiency is induced, I can look at fetal growth restriction and reduced nutrient supply.  We have observed that nutritional, in-uterine insults can affect the developing organ systems and in particular,  liver development and function which can lead to increases in glucose production by the liver as well as insulin resistance, both components of the development of diabetes. 

Timeline

I am currently on a 5 year K-1 award that will end in 2015.  The 2012 Center for Women’s Health Research seed grant allows me to dive into the molecular phenotypes in the isolated cells and the persistent markers as well as the epigenetic mechanisms.   

Why is your research important?

There are only a handful of researchers who specialize in integrative physiology and metabolism in the fetus.  My research is trying to understand the developmental origins of metabolic diseases such as diabetes and obesity. What we have been observing in the animal fetuses are the early events that can later be seen in adults who are diabetic. Approximately 5-10% of pregnancies are complicated by IURG.

Project Team

Paul Rozance, MD and Laura Brown, MD are my collaborators. I came to the University of Colorado 6 years ago to start a Post Doctorate with Bill Hay and Jed Friedman. I am interested in fetal development and metabolism. No one had looked very closely yet at the liver phenotype, and it’s exciting to be working with this team.

How did you become interested in this work?

Growing up on small family farm in Michigan with sheep, I became interested in science in high school and worked with animals while being involved in the 4-H club. My interest increased in high school after being selected to participate in a research program internship offered through Park Davis (now Pfizer) in Ann Arbor.  I went to Michigan State where I received undergraduate degrees in animal science and animal genetics. During my senior year, I had an independent research project that was published. I received my Master’s Degree in Animal Genetics from Nebraska where I studied genes that controlled obesity in mice. I then  worked on my PhD in Integrative Physiology at Cornell where I expanded my research to larger animal models and was very interested in pregnancy and lactation. In 2007, I came to the University of Colorado to do a Post Doc and am currently working with Bill Hay.