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University of Missouri

Prenatal Precautions

Undergraduate Matthew Hruska’s research looks at the uterine environment.

Although Matthew Hruska is just a sophomore and has no plans to become a father any time soon, he knows a thing or two about turning out healthy babies. Through the Mathematics in the Life Sciences program, the biology major from Foristell, Mo., earned a stipend to conduct research during summer 2013 after his freshman year. He studied pregnancy in the lab of Laura Schulz, a researcher in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the School of Medicine. To look at how a mother’s uterine environment might affect her offspring, Hruska and his labmates injected pregnant mice with high doses of leptin, a hormone that helps regulate appetite. Then he fed their offspring a high-fat diet for six weeks. When he analyzed the livers of the offspring, he found more (and more severe) fatty liver disease than normal. He links the finding to the high leptin levels in utero. One takeaway message is about the importance of a healthy prenatal environment, Hruska says. “That environment can affect the health of offspring for a long time.”