CIHR Operating Grant for Alex Beristain

Beristain A

Title: Effects of obesity associated inflammation on uterine immune cell function in early pregnancy.

Uterine immune cells are central in initiating important physiological changes of uterine tissues, are important in controlling normal placental function and are crucial in maintainingmaternal- fetal tolerance in pregnancy.  Alterations affecting the number or biological functions of these cells are closely linked to severe pregnancy disorders impacting the health of the developing baby and mother.  I’m very excited to be given the opportunity by CIHR to examine if and how the mother’s pre-existing health affects immune cell function in pregnancy.  In collaboration with Drs. Wendy Robinson (Medical Genetics) and Megan Levings (Immunology) whose labs are located within the Child & Family Research Institute, we will examine how low-grade/chronic inflammation linked to obesity alters important immune cell subtypes within uterine tissues, and we will test how these changes affect immune cell function and placental health. These changes may in part explain why obese mothers have higher incidences in high-risk pregnancies and pregnancy loss. Understanding the biology of these alterations may lead to interventions aimed at improving maternal uterine health and ultimately fetal health.