Andrea G. Edlow, MD, MSc is an Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Tufts University School of Medicine and a Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist at Tufts Medical Center. Dr. Edlow has discovered that fetuses of obese women have unique gene expression profiles, and that genes implicated in neurodevelopment are differentially expressed in fetuses of obese women. Her research is funded by the Reproductive Scientist Development Program, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the March of Dimes, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists/Abbott Nutrition.
Focus of Edlow Lab Research
The Edlow Laboratory focuses on maternal obesity and its impact on fetal gene expression and neurodevelopment. Maternal obesity is a rising public health problem in the United States, with one in three U.S. women now obese at the time of conception. This epidemic of maternal obesity has transgenerational effects.
It is well established that children born to obese mothers are at increased risk for obesity and metabolic syndrome, but recent epidemiologic data suggest that these children are also at risk for neurodevelopmental morbidities, including lower cognitive capabilities, developmental delay, ADHD, and autism spectrum disorders.
The Edlow laboratory was one of the first to use amniotic fluid supernatant and umbilical cord blood to investigate real-time fetal brain development in obese pregnancy. Gene expression profiling of these two biofluids identified abnormal gene expression signatures in fetuses of obese women highlighting dysregulated brain development, increased inflammation, and increased oxidative stress.
The laboratory is now investigating the biological significance of these findings in a mouse model of maternal diet-induced obesity. Preliminary data from this model suggest that maternal obesity is associated with sex specific differences in embryo size, and specific and global embryonic brain gene expression. We are also focusing on the effects of maternal diet in pregnancy and lactation on fetal and neonatal brain development.
Ultimately, we anticipate that this work will form the basis for a lifestyle/behavioral intervention, and possibly provide targets for prenatal therapies that could be given orally to the pregnant woman. If an intervention can reverse or ameliorate structural and functional brain changes in fetuses of obese women, this would have profound implications for human pregnancy and neurodevelopment of affected children.