Deborah M. Sloboda, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences

Associate member of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Department of Pediatrics

Canada Research Chair in Perinatal Programming

Secretary, International Society of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease


Lab website:

Facebook: SlobodaLab


Chronic disease results from a complex interaction of many factors, including genetic, behavioural, and environmental influences. It is now well established that a relationship exists between the periconceptional, fetal and early infant phases of life and the subsequent development of chronic diseases including obesity and Type 2 diabetes. This relationship, the “developmental origins of health and disease” (DOHaD), suggests that the embryo/fetus/neonate makes adaptations in response to early life cues, resulting in adjustments in homeostatic systems that are maladaptive in postnatal life, leading to an increased risk of chronic disease in adulthood and/or the inheritance of risk factors across generations. A multitude of “modifying” cues inducing developmental adaptations have been identified that result in a common adult phenotype characterized by obesity, insulin resistance, behavioural, reproductive and stress-related disorders. Among these, early life nutrition has been the most studied and is the focus of our lab. Our primary interest is determining the relationship between perinatal nutritional adversity and maternal-fetal-placental development and offspring phenotype. The perinatal environment provides a potential therapeutic target for intervention and prevention, and focusing on this developmental window of vulnerability may translate into improved interventional strategies to stem the growing epidemic of obesity.

Main Research Themes

  • The maternal microbiome, fetal and placental development and offspring obesity
    In these studies we investigate how shifts in the pregnant gut microbiome mediate maternal adaptation to pregnancy and how these microbial shifts impact placental, fetal and offspring development. These studies are part of our long-term goal of determining the underlying early life precipitating factors that confer an increased risk of obesity and metabolic disease in offspring of obese mothers.
  • Maternal nutritional impacts on offspring reproduction
    In these studies we are interested in understanding the relationship between early life nutrition and impacts on ovarian function and whether changes in germ cell development underpin transgenerational transmittance of chronic disease risk.

NSERC: ER stress links early life nutritional stress and metabolic outcome.

  1. Jazwiec, PA, Li, X, Matushewski, B, Richardson, BS, Sloboda, DM. Fetal Growth Restriction Is Associated With Decreased Number of Ovarian Follicles and Impaired Follicle Growth in Young Adult Guinea Pig Offspring. Reprod Sci. 2019; :1933719119828041. doi: 10.1177/1933719119828041. PubMed PMID:30744513 .
  2. Breznik, JA, Naidoo, A, Foley, KP, Schulz, C, Lau, TC, Loukov, D et al.. TNF, but not hyperinsulinemia or hyperglycemia, is a key driver of obesity-induced monocytosis revealing that inflammatory monocytes correlate with insulin in obese male mice. Physiol Rep. 2018;6 (23):e13937. doi: 10.14814/phy2.13937. PubMed PMID:30548217 PubMed Central PMC6286899.
  3. Braun, F, Hardt, AK, Ehrlich, L, Sloboda, DM, Challis, JRG, Plagemann, A et al.. Sex-specific and lasting effects of a single course of antenatal betamethasone treatment on human placental 11β-HSD2. Placenta. 2018;69 :9-19. doi: 10.1016/j.placenta.2018.07.007. PubMed PMID:30213491 .
  4. Wallace, JG, Potts, RH, Szamosi, JC, Surette, MG, Sloboda, DM. The murine female intestinal microbiota does not shift throughout the estrous cycle. PLoS ONE. 2018;13 (7):e0200729. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0200729. PubMed PMID:30011327 PubMed Central PMC6047814.
  5. Charest, PL, Vrolyk, V, Herst, P, Lessard, M, Sloboda, DM, Dalvai, M et al.. Histomorphologic Analysis of the Late-term Rat Fetus and Placenta. Toxicol Pathol. 2018;46 (2):158-168. doi: 10.1177/0192623318755135. PubMed PMID:29400254 .
  6. Chan, KA, Jazwiec, PA, Gohir, W, Petrik, JJ, Sloboda, DM. Maternal nutrient restriction impairs young adult offspring ovarian signaling resulting in reproductive dysfunction and follicle loss. Biol. Reprod. 2018;98 (5):664-682. doi: 10.1093/biolre/ioy008. PubMed PMID:29351580 .
  7. Bay, JL, Vickers, MH, Mora, HA, Sloboda, DM, Morton, SM. Adolescents as agents of healthful change through scientific literacy development: A school-university partnership program in New Zealand. Int J STEM Educ. 2017;4 (1):15. doi: 10.1186/s40594-017-0077-0. PubMed PMID:30631671 PubMed Central PMC6310384.
  8. Ribeiro, TA, Prates, KV, Pavanello, A, Malta, A, Tófolo, LP, Martins, IP et al.. Acephate exposure during a perinatal life program to type 2 diabetes. Toxicology. 2016;372 :12-21. doi: 10.1016/j.tox.2016.10.010. PubMed PMID:27765684 .
  9. Gütling, H, Bionaz, M, Sloboda, DM, Ehrlich, L, Braun, F, Gramzow, AK et al.. The importance of selecting the right internal control gene to study the effects of antenatal glucocorticoid administration in human placenta. Placenta. 2016;44 :19-22. doi: 10.1016/j.placenta.2016.05.011. PubMed PMID:27452434 .
  10. Braun, T, Weichert, A, Gil, HC, Sloboda, DM, Tutschek, B, Harder, T et al.. Fetal and neonatal outcomes after term and preterm delivery following betamethasone administration in twin pregnancies. Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2016;134 (3):329-35. doi: 10.1016/j.ijgo.2016.02.016. PubMed PMID:27365289 .
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