The risk of developing heart disease is determined not only by our genes, but also by the state of the intrauterine environment that we experience before birth. Fetal hypoxia is a common complication of pregnancy and is responsible for programming cardiac and endothelial dysfunction in offspring in later life. The mechanisms by which this happens remain elusive, preventing the identification of potential therapy.
Research carried out by speaker Dino Giussani has led to the hypothesis that oxidative stress in the fetal heart and vasculature underlies how prenatal hypoxia programmes cardiac dysfunction in later life. His talk will detail the physiology underlying this hypothesis, what he has discovered, and how these can be applied to modify the risk of heart disease not only in our children but also in further generations.
Dino is The Professor of Developmental Cardiovascular Physiology & Medicine at the University of Cambridge. He also holds a Professorial Fellowship at Gonville & Caius College in Cambridge, where he is Director of Studies in Medicine. Professor Giussani graduated with a first-class BSc (Hons) Physiology at Royal Holloway of the University of London and Doctor of Philosophy at University College London under the mentorship of Professor Mark Hanson. He was a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Universidad de Chile with Professor Anibal Llanos and at Cornell University with Professor Peter Nathanielsz, before taking up a tenured Lectureship at the University of Cambridge in 1996, where he has been since. He was promoted to Reader in 2004 and to full Professor in 2011. In 2016, he received the ScD degree from the University of Cambridge. Professor Giussani is the current President of The Fetal & Neonatal Physiological Society. He has secured over £14 M in grant funding, published over 190 full papers and his research has won 17 international prizes including: The Lister Institute Prize, The Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award, The Netherlands Wim Schellekens 2007 Prize, The 2015 David Barker Memorial Lecture at Oregon Health Sciences University, USA, The 2015 Sir Peter Tizard Lecture from The Neonatal Society and the 2017 Nick Hales Award from the International DoHAD Society. He has been Reviewing Editor for The Journal of Physiology, Section Editor for Pediatric Research and for the American Journal of Physiology. Dino serves on the DOHAD Council and the DOHAD Scientific Programme Committee. His current programmes of research use an integrative approach at the whole animal, isolated organ, cellular and molecular levels to determine the role of fetal oxygenation and reactive oxygen species in cardiovascular development, and in setting an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in later life and across generations. In 2017 and 2018, respectively, he was awarded honorary Fellowships by distinction from two academies: the Royal College of Obstetrics & Gynaecology (FRCOG) and the Latin American Academy of Sciences (ACAL), in recognition of the contribution of his research to the wellbeing of women and their children.