Professor Michael Taggart, Chair of Reproductive Sciences, Newcastle University, UK
Professor Taggart’s laboratory investigates the cellular, tissue and organ remodelling events that occur in the mother and fetus during pregnancy and the impact these have for post-natal life to adulthood. The regulation of these adaptations is crucial for the mother to support the growing embryo/fetus and ensure a successful pregnancy outcome. This is important because common complications of pregnancy such as preterm birth – arising from fetal growth restriction, pre-eclampsia or preterm labour – can result in very serious immediate or lifelong health issues for the mother and any surviving babies. Of particular note here are the increased risks of developing cardiovascular disease.
His research group generally uses three experimental paradigms. First, in liaison with clinical colleagues, and via the auspices of the Newcastle Uteroplacental Tissue Bank (http://www.ncl.ac.uk/biobanks/collections/nutb/), the group often uses fresh human tissue biopsies for its experiments. These are obtained, following informed consent, from non-pregnant or pregnant women. Second, allied to this, the group uses suitable animal models of human pregnancy that enable precisely timed measurements and/or investigation of interventions in a pre-clinical setting. One such understudied but very valuable model is the guinea pig. Third, the group makes use of a variety of computational modelling approaches to interrogate and interpret complex data.
A range of experimental techniques are employed to these ends including: live cell confocal fluorescent microscopy (Ca2 imaging, fluorescent molecule tracking), optical mapping of tissue electrogenesis (cardiac and uterine action potentials), tissue contractility (e.g. isobaric or isometric myography of small arteries), ultrastructural examination by transmission-EM and serial block face-EM and molecular expression studies using RNA sequencing and label-free proteomics.
Presently, Professor Taggart’s research group are concentrated on three topics:
- Tissue-specific mechanisms of vasculogenesis and vascular remodelling.
- Molecular mechanisms of cardiac remodelling from fetus to adult.
- Alterations in uterine smooth muscle phenotype during pregnancy.
By studying these different aspects, the research group is trying to:
- gain insight to the ways in which human cells/tissues/organs can respond when challenged to their physiological limits
- better understand how these parameters become overwhelmed in situations that result in pathophysiological outcomes such as cardiovascular disease (heart failure, hypertension, atherosclerosis) and preterm birth.