Our lab has identified an array of genetic risk markers related to maternal nutrition, metabolism and mental well-being in Singapore’s first developmental cohort. Our findings are helping deconvolute and stratify risk factors, co-morbidities, and ethnic diversities to guide the current clinical practices and bring precision to healthcare. We have also started to integrate the massive omics datasets to develop better molecular insights into the phenotypes of interest.
Below, we describe the key active areas of research in the lab.
Women are more likely to develop pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) as a consequence of increasing prevalence of obesity and it is estimated that 1 in 7 births are affected by GDM worldwide. Children born to mothers with GDM have been shown to have an increased risk of childhood obesity, with growing evidence that suboptimal intrauterine environment can perturb the metabolic programming of the growing fetus.
Our researchers, along with our external collaborators, are using longitudinal molecular profiling (lipids, genotype, transcriptome, epigenome) concurrently to study changes that occur in pregnancies with such complications. By using a systems approach, we aim to identify novel lipid and genetic signatures of metabolic disease risk in early childhood for early risk stratification and prevention of metabolic adversities in later life.
Changes to maternal nutritional status during gestation due to suboptimal maternal nutrition or increased requirements for micronutrients may lead to micronutrient deficiencies which may affect health outcomes for both mother and the offspring.
In view of the importance of micronutrients in maternal and child health, we focus on nutritional studies utilizing genomics, epigenomics and metabolomics, and integration of diverse omics technologies to identify genetic risk variants associated with suboptimal antenatal nutritional status and its downstream impact on the offspring outcomes.
Mental health adversities
Maternal mood health have received particular attention as it has shown that at least 1 in 9 women in Singapore experience anxiety and/or depression during and after pregnancy. Increasing evidence indicates that maternal mood is one of the major risk factors for development of mental health problems in children.
Through coordinated computational and experimental approaches, our lab studies the effects of maternal mood health on fetal and child development, examines the cognitive or emotional outcomes as a function of genomic and epigenomic factors as well as assess the trajectories of cognitive development from birth until 4 years of age through gene-environment interactions.