- Ph.D. Endocrinology, University of California, San Francisco, 1982
- A.B. Biochemistry, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY, 1977
Dr. Keller-Wood’s overall research interest is the physiologic adaptations to pregnancy and effects of maternal physiology on fetal maturation and growth.The laboratory is focusing on changes related to the effects of the adrenal hormone cortisol. These receptors mediate physiologic effects necessary for regulating blood glucose, blood pressure, fluid and electrolyte excretion, appetite, and mood. In women, secretion of cortisol is increased during pregnancy. We are interested in the role of the increased cortisol and its action via these receptors in two interrelated adaptations of pregnancy: changes in regulation of maternal blood pressure and fluid balance, and changes in fetal physiology caused by the changes in maternal cortisol secretion.
There are two major areas of funded research in the laboratory. The first is to examine the interaction of the placental hormone progesterone and the adrenal hormone, cortisol in regulation of blood pressure and blood volume in pregnancy. A second area of research involves examining the physiologic significance of the increased cortisol during pregnancy on the fetus.
Although actions at the glucocorticoid receptors are known to be crucial for normal lung and GI development at the time of birth, we are interested in whether cortisol action at the higher affinity mineralocorticoid receptors occurs earlier in gestation and results in induction of genes important for normal fluid regulation and maturation in the fetus. These effects are related to maternal physiology, because the maternal adrenal is the major source of cortisol in fetal blood before the fetal adrenal matures near the time of birth. We have found that the normal increase in maternal cortisol is important for maternal volume expansion and normal uterine blood flow in late gestation, and contributes to fetal well-being and fetal growth. We are testing the effect of blocking cortisol action at MR and GR in the fetus to test for effects on fetal lung and kidney and on genes induced by MR and GR in late gestation. We also will investigate the role of maternally secreted cortisol on fetal glucose and fat metabolism, fetal skeletal and organ growth, and on neonatal metabolism, adiposity and responses to stress.