Maternal obesity is associated with cardiovascular problems in children, and there is an opportunity to reduce them by improved diet and physical activity during pregnancy. This project aims to create additional evidence of the benefits of these healthy lifestyle choices.
Our previous research reports a higher heart rate and early signs of heart complications in newborns of women with obesity compared to those of normal weight women. Our UPBEAT study in over 1500 obese pregnant women showed that an intervention (i.e. improved diet and physical activity) reduced their weight gain and fat mass. Most recently, in a study of their 3-year-old children we found evidence of abnormal structure and function, which was prevented by the improved maternal diet and physical activity.
In this context, this project will measure cardiovascular structure and function in UPBEAT children when they are 10 years old, to determine whether the adverse influence of maternal obesity and the positive effect of the intervention persist. The specific objectives of the PhD are (1) to develop the robust and versatile statistical shape models (SSMs) from echocardiographic data and (2) to conduct the data acquisition and analysis of the UPBEAT cohort.
During this project the candidate will be able to learn about all aspects of Children of UPBEAT and will be able to co-lead data collection (aim to hit n=700 UPBEAT Children by mid-2025). They will be able to devise their own research question to align with their interests. They will learn image analysis and computational modelling skills, specifically those for the construction of comprehensive SSMs that are able to identify subtle remodelling patterns.
The goal is to provide an important public health message to increase the focus on a healthy diet and physical activity in pregnancy, especially in women with obesity, to prevent cardiovascular disease in their children.