Keshari Thakali, Ph.D.
Department of Pediatrics
Section of Developmental Nutrition
Currently, many women entering pregnancy are either overweight or obese and it is well-established that exposure to maternal obesity during gestation is associated with increased risk of offspring obesity. In addition, in both humans and animal models, in utero exposure to maternal obesity is associated with increased offspring risk of developing cardiovascular disease. It is important to determine the specific mechanisms that drive this increased risk, and to understand how nutrition and exercise impact the associations. Our laboratory studies perivascular adipose tissue (PVAT), an adipose depot surrounding blood vessels and an important paracrine regulator of underlying smooth muscle and endothelial cell function. Obesity is associated with the loss of PVAT-mediated anti-contractile properties, thus contributing to obesity-associated vascular dysfunction and hypertension. While studies suggest that PVAT is a key link between obesity and cardiovascular disease, there is a lack of information regarding how maternal nutritional status, developmental cues, dietary factors, and physical activity affect offspring PVAT function and overall vascular reactivity. Our studies examine how maternal nutrition and physical activity during pregnancy program offspring vascular function and are part of an ACNC systems-based approach to carefully characterize how maternal nutrition and physical activity impact offspring health and well-being.