Meet a Member

Hao Chen, PhD

Ionis Pharmaceuticals

What type of research do you do?

My research focuses on the placenta, which is the lifeline between the mother and the baby during pregnancy. The placenta is a sophisticated organ with different cell types of specialized function. One group of cells I’m interested in are the cytotrophoblasts, which are responsible for ensuring exchange of nutrients and waste by redirecting maternal blood flow during development. If the function of these cells is disrupted, pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia can result. The goal is to identify what environmental chemicals impact these cytotrophoblasts, and furthermore, what biological molecules are affected. These studies can improve risk assessment of a studied chemical, or similar classes of chemicals, in the future and inform regulatory efforts as necessary. Through this type of research, we can raise health awareness, mitigate adverse developmental outcomes, and ensure better public health outcomes for at-risk populations.

Why did you choose birth defects research?

Working to uphold and improve the health of subsequent generations is a meaningful humanitarian endeavor. The broader ethical mission of birth defect research is part and parcel with the intellectual challenge the field represents. Development is a dynamic and fascinating process with different layers of complex unknowns. Unraveling the basic biology of development is critical to improve birth defect outcomes. Contributing to a community with the like-minded goal of improving birth outcomes is fulfilling, inspiring, and interesting.

What does it mean to you to be involved in BDRP?

Some scientific societies can be overwhelming, in scope or scale. The Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention is a genuine interdisciplinary scientific communion. I was introduced to the society through my postdoctoral mentor, Dr. Joshua Robinson, and found a community that embodied values that I admired in him and other scientists in birth defects research and prevention: curiosity, decency, and equanimity. Any organization is reflected by the people that compose it, and BDRP is filled with inspiring, intelligent, and approachable professionals with voluminous knowledge. It is motivating to interact with these individuals, to build lasting relationships, and to share in the struggles and triumphs of the field.

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