Colleen Julian

Colleen Julian PhD

  • Biomedicine (SOM)

Research Description

BIRCWH project title: Hypoxia-associated impairment of fetal growth: epigenomic perspectives

Current research focus: Dr. Julian's research focuses primarily on the mechanisms underlying human adaptation to the chronic hypoxia of high altitude and, in particular, how these processes influence maternal vascular adaptation to pregnancy, pregnancy outcome and the long-term health of of affected offspring. Using the natural laboratory of high altitude, her current studies range from the epigenetic origins of hypoxia-induced fetal growth restriction to the influence of environmental epigenetic modifier during perinatal life for the development of pulmonary vascular dysfunction. Such studies are of important public health significance given that intrauterine growth restriction raises the risk of stillbirth approximately 4-fold and neonatal death 8 to 20-fold. Vascular disorders of pregnancy, including intrauterine growth restriction and preeclampsia (a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy) often coexist, together accounting for nearly 30% of premature deliveries with an estimated cost of $8.7 billion for acute care and long-term disability. Despite its public health significance, no effective strategies exist to prevent or treat IUGR. By integrating genomic and functional (i.e. physiologic and transcriptional) human studies, a primary long-term goal of the Julian Lab is to identify potential targets for the development of novel therapies for fetal growth restriction and its sequela, and to design more effective methods to detect individuals at risk for hypoxia-related pregnancy complications.

How Dr. Julian became interested in this work: "For as long as I can remember, I have been in awe of how intricate human physiology is and the constant biological fine-tuning that has to go on to keep the whole operation moving. For me, the vast physiological adaptations that occur during pregnancy are truly mind blowing. While this innate interest guided me towards my current line of research, I'm now equally driven by the fact that my purpose for coming into the lab everyday is to work towards improving health outcomes for women and children. I feel very lucky that my research team has the opportunity to do the work that we do."

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