BSc University of Waterloo Honours Bachelors of Science (Co-Operative Biology)
Office: Dental Sciences Building, Room 2023
Why Science (or Why Research)?
I have always had an interest and passion for science starting from a young age and was an avid participant of science fairs while I was still in elementary schools. In the eighth grade, I had conducted an experiment on my family dog, where I had explored his 5 senses. With this project, I went to the London science fair and won first prize, where I discovered my enthusiasm about the scientific method. My enthusiasm for science carried on into high school, where I completed a high school co-op program at the Lawson Health Research Institute (LHRI). There, I began looking at fetal physiology and the development of the fetal adrenal gland. This helped me transition into my Bachelor of Science ’s in Biology at the University of Waterloo. There, I was part of their co-op biology program, I was exposed to more biomedical research. Within the co-op program at Waterloo, I was able to work at both at Robarts, where I looked at a model of diabetes, and the National Research Council (NRC), looking at the neurobiology underlying strokes. My passion for science grew as I became exposed to more laboratory research and the different aspects of physiology all throughout my educational career. Eventually, I came back to Western for a PhD where I worked under the supervision of Dr. Kaiping Yang looking at the regulation of enzymes in the placenta involved with metabolizing hormones, specifically glucocorticoids. Impairment of the enzyme leads to low birth weight babies. From there, I was able to work at the University of Texas for my post-doctoral fellowship, where I examined the role of the progesterone receptor in causing preterm labour. I have always been interested in fetal physiology, pregnancy, and the placenta, and now I study the causes of intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR).
The main research goals at my lab are to understand what leads to healthy and unhealthy pregnancy outcomes, as well as to understand the mechanisms that lead to fetal growth restriction.
Another goal at my lab is to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying the developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD). Several insults during pregnancy can impair fetal growth and development. This is of great concern considering that growth restricted babies exhibit an increased risk of metabolic diseases in later stages of life. Therefore, thein-utero environment of a fetus plays a critical role in determining the long-term health outcomes.
I chose to focus on this area of research because it came as a natural extension of my research history. I want to help understand the links between a poor in-utero environment and long-term health.
Specific Research Interests:
1. My lab uses pregnant animal models to ask questions regarding how insults in pregnancy may lead to fetal growth restriction. For example, we use maternal protein restriction in pregnant rats to model poor placenta development from an undernourished mother. This allows us to examine the long-term metabolic deficits in offspring. As well, these models allow us to explore how postnatal catch-up weight gain may be further detrimental for the offspring.
2. I am also interested in the roles of drugs in pregnancy, and their importance to long term metabolic defects in offspring. We explore the effects of SSRIs, cannabinoids (i.e. D9-THC and CBD), and nicotine among other drugs and examine how they may impact fetal development. Our lab has explored the role of D9-THC in pregnant animal models, and we have assessed fetal development and the quality of the offspring under different conditions. We found that maternal D9-THC exposure leads to glucose intolerance, cardiac abnormalities, dyslipidemia, altered drug metabolism, and impairments of ovarian functions in the offspring.
|Fetal Physiology 4700B|
Most Rewarding Moments:
My students are the most rewarding part of my career. I am extremely proud of my graduated students that have begun their careers in healthcare, academia, and industry. In addition to this, I am very proud of papers produced from my lab. I am proud of the great output that comes out, and I am especially pleased with the productivity of my students. I am further proud of disseminating our data through my students and their publications.
Advice to Students:
Your enthusiasm will drive you to great places. Working in research can be highly unpredictable, and you need the enthusiasm to get up everyday and want to continue to do research. You can't fake this passion, but if you continue to be enthusiastic, good things will come with it. I am very happy and grateful that my enthusiasm for science and research has driven me to where I am today. In research, it is extraordinary that everyday can be different. As a researcher, the job is never monotonous.
Interests Outside of Academia:
Outside of academia, I enjoy being a parent, and going outside and pursuing outdoor activities with my kids. In addition, I enjoy watersports (e.g. kayaking, boating) and downhill skiing. I also have a weakness for traditional Irish music, with a small talent in playing the Irish Bodran!
Scientist of the Year Award, Children’s Health Research Institute (CHRI)
Perkin-Elmer Early Career Award, The Perinatal Research Society
See all my publications on PubMed.
Hoffman DJ, Powell T, Barrett E, and DB Hardy (2021). Developmental Origins of Metabolic Diseases, Physiological Reviews, 2021 Jul 1;101(3):739-795Natale BV, Gustin KN, Lee K, Holloway AC, Laviolette SR, Natale DRC, and DB Hardy (2020). Exposure to D9-tetrahydrocannabinol during gestation leads to symmetrical fetal growth restriction associated with labyrinth-specific defects in the vasculature and glucose transporter 1 in the rat placenta, Scientific Reports, 10(1): 544. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-57318-6.
Gillies RJ, Lee K, Vanin SR, Asadi F, Laviolette SR, Holloway AC, Arany EJ, and DB Hardy (2020). Maternal exposure to ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol impairs glucose homeostasis and endocrine pancreatic development in female offspring, Reproductive Toxicology, 94: 84-91
Oke S, Sohi G, and DB Hardy (2020). Perinatal protein restriction followed by postnatal catch-up growth leads to elevated p66Shc and mitochondrial dysfunction in the adult rat liver, Reproduction, 159: 27-59
Ma N, Nicholson CJ, Wong M, Holloway AC, and DB Hardy. (2014) Fetal and Neonatal Exposure to Nicotine Leads to Augmented Hepatic and Circulating Triglycerides in Adult Male Offspring Due to Increased Expression of Fatty Acid Synthase, Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology 275:1-11.