I conducted my Ph.D within the laboratory of Professor Tom Fleming at the University of Southampton. Here, my research focused on investigating the impact of mouse embryo culture and environmental conditions on long-term adult health. During my PhD I demonstrated that embryo culture and transfer procedures resulted in the development of hypertension and metabolic disorders in adult offspring. During my postdoctoral research I assessed the impact of maternal low protein diet (LPD) given exclusively during pre-implantation development (3.5 days) in mice. Here, I observed that maternal preimplantation LPD increased offspring growth and adiposity, induced adult hypertension and vascular dysfunction and altered behavioural characteristics.
In 2011 I was awarded a University of Nottingham Advanced Research Fellowship to investigate the impact of paternal nutrition on sperm quality and adult offspring cardiovascular and metabolic health. Under this 2 year fellowship I demonstrated that LPD fed to male mice prior to conception induced genome wide hypomethylation in sperm, offspring hypotension, vascular dysfunction, glucose intolerance and elevated adiposity. Data from these studies identified potentials roles for both sperm- and seminal fluid-specific mechanisms through which paternal diet can affect offspring health and development. In April 2014, I was awarded an Aston Research Centre for Healthy Ageing Research Fellow within Aston University to continue and develop his investigations into the impact of parental nutrition on offspring health.
Currently I am an Associate Professor in Reproductive and Developmental Physiology within the Lifespan and Population Health Academic Unit. My current research focuses on the impact of poor paternal diet on sperm quality and seminal fluid composition and the discrete effects these have on embryo development, fetal growth and skeletal formation and adult offspring cardiovascular and metabolic health in a mouse model.
I am a researcher who is interesting in understanding the impact of parental diet on the earliest stages of development (first few days after conception) and how this affects the growth of the fetus and ultimately the health of the offspring adulthood. My current research is focused on the importance of a father's diet for the quality of his sperm, the development of the early embryo, the growth of the fetus and the long-term cardio-metabolic health of his offspring.
To conduct my research I used a wide range of techniques including analysis of sperm quality, embryo and cell culture, analysis of bone health using X-ray synchrotron facilities (e.g. Diamond Light Source), analysis of placental function, next generation sequencing technologies and analysis of cardio-metabolic health.
Together, my research provides an insight into the biological mechanisms linking parental diet with the long-term health of their offspring.
Within the University I am involved in delivering the year 3 BMedSci dissertation projects, the Critical Thinking Skills in Epidemiology and Public Health (MEDS3043 UNUK) and Reproduction (MGEM2015… read more
Studies using human and animal models have revealed strong associations between the quality of maternal nutrition, as well as her physiology around the time of conception and the long-term, health… read more
WATKINS AJ, SIROVICA S, STOKES B, ISAACS M, ADDISON O and MARTIN RA, 2017. Paternal low protein diet programs preimplantation embryo gene expression, fetal growth and skeletal development in mice. Biochimica et biophysica acta. 1863(6), 1371-1381 DENISENKO O, LUCAS ES, SUN C, WATKINS AJ, MAR D, BOMSZTYK K and FLEMING TP, 2016. Regulation of ribosomal RNA expression across the lifespan is fine-tuned by maternal diet before implantation. Biochimica et biophysica acta. 1859(7), 906-13
WATKINS AJ, LUCAS ES, MARFY-SMITH S, BATES N, KIMBER SJ and FLEMING TP, 2015. Maternal nutrition modifies trophoblast giant cell phenotype and fetal growth in mice. Reproduction (Cambridge, England). 149(6), 563-75
Applications for PhD positions are invited all year round from exceptional graduates to study the influences of parental environmental and lifestyle factors on reproductive fitness and offspring development and well-being.
Candidates interested in joining the lab to work in this research area can contact Dr Adam Watkins by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Currently positions are only available to self-funded students. There are a number of international studentships available to international applicants: see http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/InternationalOffice/prospective-students/scholarships/index.aspx.
Within the University I am involved in delivering the year 3 BMedSci dissertation projects, the Critical Thinking Skills in Epidemiology and Public Health (MEDS3043 UNUK) and Reproduction (MGEM2015 UNUK) modules.
Outside of the University, I deliver guest lectures for Oxford University's MSc in clinical embryology and Aston University's M.Sc. in Stem cells and Regenerative Medicine.
I am also currently an external examiner for the University of Southampton's M.Med Sci. (Hons) course.
Studies using human and animal models have revealed strong associations between the quality of maternal nutrition, as well as her physiology around the time of conception and the long-term, health and development of her offspring. Whilst the role of maternal nutrition and physiology has received extensive investigation, the role of paternal nutrition in offspring development has remained a neglected area. In addition, the precise mechanisms linking parental peri-conceptional nutrition with the induction of altered offspring development and disease risk are still unknown. My current research is focused on understanding the discrete parental genomic, cytoplasmic and accessory material contributions to offspring health and development following parental low protein diet (LPD) in the mouse. These studies will look at the quality of the sperm and oocytes following parental LPD, the composition of the seminal fluid and the development of the offspring they generate. These studies will combine a range of experimental techniques to examine gamete development (DNA methylation and gene expression patterns, oocyte cytoplasmic and genomic roles in offspring programming using pronuclear transfer) as well as long-term assessment of offspring development and cardiovascular function.
Previous to taking up a University of Nottingham Advanced Research Fellowship in 2011 I conducted my Ph.D and 2 postdoctoral positions at the University of Southampton in the laboratory of Professor Tom Fleming. Here my research focused on understanding the impact of an altered mouse preimplantation embryo environment on the long-term health and development of the offspring. During my Ph. D I revealed for the first time that routine techniques associated with human assisted reproductive techniques (embryo culture and transfer) could significantly alter offspring cardiovascular and metabolic homeostatic mechanisms in the mouse. Similar findings have subsequently been observed in children derived from IVF.
During my first postdoctoral position my focus tuned to manipulating the mouse preimplantation environment in vivo through the feeding of a maternal low protein dirt (LPD) during discrete periods of development. Here we discovered that maternal LPD given exclusively during preimplantation development, just 3.5 days post conception, resulted in enhanced offspring growth, hypertension and altered cardiovascular homeostasis, elevated anxiety-related behaviour. Interestingly, when LPD was given for 3.5 days prior to conception no effects on offspring growth were observed however, elevated blood pressure and altered behavioural profiles were also observed. My second postdoctoral position then focused on investigating the mechanisms and pathways responsible in the development these observed changes postnatal phenotype.
My current reseach is supported by the BBSRC to study the sperm and seminal plasma soecific mechanisms linking paternal diet with reproductive health and post-fertilisation development. Under this grant, and in collaboration with the University of Manchester, I will define how poor paternal diet affects (i) sperm quality and seminal plasma composition, (ii) embryonic metabolism and uterine responses and (iii) defining the speed at which male reproductive fitness recovers.
This novel study will shed new insight into how poor paternal diet can influence the long-term health of his offspring.