Metabolism, reproduction and disease

Metabolism, which is defined as the group of chemical reactions that sustain life, is now acknowledged to influence every aspect of physiology, and these influences begin at the earliest stages of life.

We aim to discover how the metabolic activity of gametes and early embryos is modified in response to health, disease, lifestyle and the wider environment, and how these changes at the embryonic level can predispose to a range of non-communicable disease in the offspring.  We are also working hard to discover ways to identify viable embryos on the basis of non-invasive tests based on metabolism.


How do environmental contaminants affect the earliest stages of development

Title: How do environmental contaminants affect the earliest stages of development
Timeframe: 2018-2021
Funder: University of Hull cluster
Contact: Professor Roger Sturmey, Vasiliki Papachristofi (PhD student) and Professor Jeannete Rotchell (University of Hull)

The purpose of this research is to determine whether a range of emerging environmental contaminants can cross the Fallopian tube and modify early development.

At Hull York Medical School, we have developed new model of the Fallopian tube (Simintiras et al 2016) and used this to examine how exposure to key dietary compounds that can disrupt the endocrine system or how exposure may change the physiology of the oviduct (Simintiras and Sturmey 2017).

We are now exploring how the environment of the oviduct responds to physiological exposure of environmental contaminants in ways that alter early embryo development.


Simintiras CA, Sturmey RG 2017. Genistein crosses the bioartifical oviduct and alters secretion composition. Reproductive Toxicology 71 63-70.

Simintiras CA, Frohlich T, Sathyapalan T, Arnold GJ, UIlbrich SE, Leese HJ Sturmey RG.  2017.  Modelling aspects of oviduct fluid formation in vitro.  Reproduction 153 (1) 23-33. DOI: 10.1530/REP-15-0508

The biochemistry of the early mammalian embryo

Title: The biochemistry of the early mammalian embryo 
Timeframe: 2018-2022
Funder: University of Hull and Hull IVF Unit
Contact: Professor Roger Sturmey and Dr Christine Leary (Hull York Medical School Honorary Teaching Fellow and Hull IVF Unit)

To further our understanding of the metabolism and biochemistry of early embryos to uncover markers of embryo health.

The early embryo depletes and produces a range of metabolites as it undergoes the first days of development. We have previously show that the pattern of metabolite release and uptake tells us about metabolic strategy and links to ongoing embryo health. We remain hopeful that such studies will prove valid as a non-invasive marker embryo health with the potential for clinical translation.


Leary C, Leese HJ, Sturmey RGHuman embryos from overweight women display morphokinetic and metabolic abnormalities.  2015  Human Reproduction doi 10.1093/humrep/deu276

Leese, H. J., Guerif, F. , Allgar, V. , Brison, D. R., Lundin, K. and Sturmey, R. G. (2016), Biological optimization, the Goldilocks principle, and how much is lagom in the preimplantation embryo. Mol. Reprod. Dev., 83: 748-754. doi:10.1002/mrd.22684

Guerif F, McKeegan PJ, Leese HJ & Sturmey RG. 2013A simple approach for consumption and release (CORE) analysis of metabolic activity in single mammalian embryos.  PLoS One. 2013;8(8):e67834. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0067834

Embryo quality revisited: understanding and reversing the hidden impact of obesity

Title: Embryo quality revisited: understanding and reversing the hidden impact of obesity
Timeframe: 2019-2021
Funder: European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology
Contact: Professor Roger Sturmey
Collaborators: Dr Adam Stevens and Professor Daniel Brison (University of Manchester) and Dr Christine Leary (Hull York Medical School Honorary Teaching Fellow and Hull IVF Unit).

Novel aspects of mitochondrial biology in early embryos

Title: Novel aspects of mitochondrial biology in early embryos
Timeframe: 2016-2020
Funder: University of Hull PhD Scholarship
Contact: Professor Roger Sturmey and Bethany Muller


Application of extracellular flux analysis for determining mitochondrial function in mammalian oocytes and early embryosBethany Muller, Niamh Lewis, Tope Adeniyi, Henry J Leese, Daniel Brison, Roger G Sturmey. bioRxiv 626333; doi:

The effect of hyperglycaemia on early development

Title: The effect of hyperglycaemia on early development
Timeframe: 2016-2020
Funder: University of Hull PhD Scholarship
Contact: Professor Roger Sturmey and Kalliopi Roussi


Hamdi, M., Sánchez Calabuig, M. J., Rodríguez-Alonso, B., Bagés-Arnal, S., Roussi, K., Sturmey, R..s., Gutierrez-Adan, A., Lonergan, P., & Rizos, D. (2019). Gene expression and metabolic response of bovine oviduct epithelial cells to the early embryo, Reproduction, , REP-18-0561. Retrieved May 14, 2019.