Renal and hormonal responses in offspring of ewes fed a high salt diet during pregnancy
Studies performed on humans and animals have shown that the in utero environment, for example a change in nutrition, could influence foetal developmental processes and could also alter homeostatic regulatory mechanisms among the offspring. These changes are usually permanent and may be passed on to future generations.
My project looks specifically at how exposure of the ewe during pregnancy to high levels of salt in the diet affects the response of her offspring to salt ingestion, at both the genetic and physiological levels.
Currently 4.5M ha of agricultural land in Australia is at risk from salinity, and this is predicted to double in the next 40 years. The use of saltbush as an integrated management tool is increasing in an effort to revegetate these saline landscapes and to convert them into a productive asset.
To further increase land production and profitability, grazing animals on saltbush has become a major viable option. Offspring born to ewes that graze saltbush during pregnancy may have altered renal physiology and salt sensitivity, which may allow the animals to perform better on saltbush in later life. In addition, this project has biomedical relevance as babies whose mothers consume high levels of salt during pregnancy may be at a higher risk of developing hypertension and cardiovascular disease in adulthood.