Our Research


Maternal obesity is a major public health problem. In Canada, 22-24% of women are diagnosed with obesity at the time of conception and this percentage extends to more than 50% in the US. This means that a high percentage of infants born in North America are exposed to maternal obesity during critical periods of early development (in utero and after-birth) with long-lasting health complications. Breastfeeding is proposed as a solution to combat the risks of overweight/obesity in children.

However, we know very little about the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying this protective effect, and we know even less about how maternal obesity shape the bioactive components of milk. Especially, a group of small, fat-coated nanovesicles known as milk-derived exosomes (MDEs) that transport genetic information (long and small non-coding RNAs), proteins, enzymes, and lipids from mothers to their offspring.

Molecular mechanisms of MDEs and milk microRNA uptake, localization, and function in the brain (In vitro and in vivo)

Temporal changes in MDEs and small and long non-coding RNA across milk types & fractions (human and rodent)

Impact of maternal obesity on the lactation biology, behaviour, metabolism, and the inflammasome (Maternal Focus)

Maternal obesity in shaping offspring neurodevelopment, the epigenome, and behaviour via milk transfer (Offspring Focus)

Research Mission
Understand how non-nutritive, bioactive components of milk shape developmental trajectories in offspring with links to later life health outcomes.
  • We will use cell culture, extracellular vesicle isolation methods, an obesity-centric rodent model, longitudinal human cohort studies, advanced microscopy, molecular and biochemistry toolkits, and Next Gen. Sequencing technologies (RNA Seq., microRNA Seq., RRBS, and ATAC Seq.).
  • We study the transport kinetics and localization patterns of milk exosomes, and physiological/molecular effects of milk-exosome uptake in different brain regions.
  • We assess the functional dynamics and downstream biochemical effects of milk microRNAs in host cells.
  • We focus on early life risk factors, including maternal nutritional, psychosocial, and inflammatory stress that influence lactation biology of the mother and postnatal development of offspring.

Funding Partners