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Profile of Sandra Davidge, PhD

Sandra Davidge
Director, Division of Research
Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology
232 Heritage Medical Research Centre
University of Alberta
Edmonton AB  T6G 2S2

Tel: 780.492.1864
Fax: 780.492.1308


The Davidge laboratory studies cardiovascular physiology with a specific interest in the area of women's health. Studies include understanding mechanisms for normal cardiovascular adaptations of pregnancy as well as mechanisms for impaired vascular responses in women with preeclampsia, a pregnancy disorder characterized by hypertension. This work addresses the regulation of vascular tone by factors such as nitric oxide and matrix metalloproteinase. Moreover, we study the effect of oxidative stress on endothelial cell function as a potential mechanism for vascular dysfunction in women with preeclampsia.

Another area of research for this laboratory is studying the mechanism of action of sex steroids on vascular function. We study novel pathways of vascular function for progesterone (and its metabolites) as well as estrogen. Although estrogen replacement is now controversial in regard to cardiovascular health in post-menopausal women, there are known beneficial actions of estrogen directly on the vasculature. Understanding the beneficial role of estrogen on the vascular system will lead to the development of alternative therapeutic approaches to reduce vascular disease both in men and post-menopausal women. Furthermore, understanding the effect of hormonal environment on the vasculature will provide further insight to understanding the vascular control of normal pregnancy and potentially that of pathologic cardiovascular problems of pregnancy.

Complications in pregnancy may also influence cardiovascular health in the offspring. Numerous epidemiological studies have determined an inverse association between perinatal environment (usually reflected by low birth weight) and the occurrence of cardiovascular diseases later in life. It is likely that adaptive responses to fetal/neonatal environmental stresses lead to permanent changes that negatively influence metabolic and cardiovascular health in adult life. However, the mechanisms underlying these changes are not known. Our laboratory uses animal models to understand physiologic mechanisms for altered cardiovascular responses in pregnancies from an adverse maternal environment as well as assessing the offspring from these pregnancies in various life stages (fetal, neonatal, young and aged adults as well as subsequent pregnancies).

This research is supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research.


  • Vascular function studies using myography are conducted on isolated small arteries from our various animal models.
  • Analysis of the expression of various enzymes and receptors using Western blot and Immunohistochemistry techniques.
  • Cell cultures of endothelial and smooth muscle cells to assess intracellular mechanisms
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