Claudia Kappen, Dr. rer. nat.
Peggy M. Pennington Cole Chair in Maternal Biology
M.S. 1983 University of Cologne, Germany
Ph.D. 1988 University of Cologne, Germany
1988-1992 Postdoc, Yale University, New Haven, CT
The goal of our research is to understand the mechanisms by which maternal disease and nutrition during pregnancy affects development of the embryo. Diabetes and obesity in the mother are associated with greater risk for birth defects in the offspring, in particular heart defects and neural tube defects. This indicates that the embryo is exquisitely sensitive to perturbations in the uterine environment, as manifested in perturbed gene regulation and abnormal growth.
Distressed pregnancies also appear to 'program' exposed individuals for heath problems later in adult life. Recent evidence from our laboratory implicates aberrant cell differentiation and gene expression in the placenta as a possible mediator in altered nutrient transport. We are also conducting studies on diet composition and vitamin supplementation with the aim to identify beneficial factors that may be used in birth defects and disease prevention through optimized nutrition.
The research program has a second focus on fundamental mechanisms in patterning of the embryonic body plan, in particular in the axial skeleton.
The laboratory uses a wide variety of approaches, including imaging, histological techniques, molecular biology, bioinformatics, and mouse genetics and genomics.