Featured faculty

Scott Parker, PhD, Coastal Carolina University

PROJECT TITLE: Comparative responses to hypobaric versus regional hypoxia in reptilian embryos

Intrauterine hypoxia is a leading cause of neonatal death in the United States. Oxygen limitation in utero can occur due to a global reduction in atmospheric oxygen partial pressure available (hypobaric hypoxia), or a reduction in blood perfusion efficiency to fetal membranes (regional hypoxia). Studies on the consequences of hypobaric, versus regional hypoxia on embryonic development in mammals is difficult due to the logistical challenges and ethical concerns of carrying out necessarily invasive experimental procedures in this group of amniote vertebrates. Embryos from oviparous amniotes such as reptiles, however, provide a convenient model system for studying fundamental developmental consequences of hypoxia on embryonic development. The purpose of this study is to quantify the effects of global (hypobaric hypoxia) and regional hypoxia on ontogenetic and cognitive development in neonate and juvenile leopard geckos (Eublepharis macularius).

Our research indicates that timing of hypoxia during embryonic development has important consequences on mass, body condition, growth rate and cognitive development of juveniles. Hypoxia exposure during the first half of development does not affect mass, body condition, or growth rate, or ability of geckos to learn color/food association. In contrast, hypoxia exposure during the latter half of development results in smaller size at hatching, reduced growth, poor body condition and impaired learning compared to non-hypoxia controls.

Funds received from SC INBRE provided the means for me to open up a new direction of my hypoxia-development research. For the past fifteen years, I have focused my research efforts on the consequences of oxygen limitation on growth and differentiation of embryos. With NIGMS funding, I was able to begin investigating long-term consequences of developmental hypoxia on growth and cognitive development of juveniles. There is a surprising lack of experimental studies investigating the consequences of hypoxia during development on learning and cognition. I hope to continue to pursue research in the area of developmental effects of hypoxia on cognition in the future.

February 23, 2018