Printer-friendly versionPDF versionSend to friend

Rebecca Reynolds


Admin unit: 
Job title: 
Professor of Metabolic Medicine and Honorary Consultant Physician
Contact email:
0131 242 6762
47 Little France Crescent
Group members: 



I qualified in medicine in 1992 at the University of Oxford. I started my research training with a Wellcome Trust Entry Level Fellowship at the Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Centre, University of Southampton. I was then awarded a Wellcome Trust Clinical Training Fellowship at the University of Edinburgh and obtained my PhD in 2002. I became a Consultant in Diabetes and Endocrinology in 2004 and my clinical work includes diabetes, endocrinology, obesity in pregnancy and reproductive endocrinology. I was awarded the Nick Hales Award in 2011 by the International Society for the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease and the Curt Richter Award in 2012 by the International Society for Psychoneuroendocrinology in recognition of my research on glucocorticoid programming. I am currently Professor of Metabolic Medicine based in the Centre for Cardiovascular Science and am a principal investigator in the Tommys Centre for Maternal and Fetal Health and co-investigator in the Edinburgh Type 2 Diabetes Study. I am a member of the Clinical Committee for the Society for Endocrinology and a member of the Editorial Boards of Clinical Endocrinology, Neuroendocrinology and the Journal of the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease. I am Co-director and Clinical Advisor for the MBChB Year 2 Endocrinology Module and a Personal Tutor for medical student undergraduates.

Research interests: 

Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death worldwide. It is well established that low birthweight is linked to later cardiovascular disease but underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. My research has shown that activation of stress hormones is a key mechanism linking early development with health and disease over the life-span. The findings have major implications for disease prediction and ultimately may indicate new ways to prevent disease with intervention in pregnancy or early childhood. The early life environment is a key determinant of later health and disease, a concept known as developmental ‘programming’.Low birthweight, a crude marker of an adverse intra-uterine environment, is associated with increased risk of a range of diseases including diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. I am one of the few investigators world-wide dissecting potential mechanisms underlying this association. My focus is the role of glucocorticoids as both mediators and targets of early life programming. Key research areas include a) the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis as a mediator of programming: I have shown that low birthweight is associated with activation of the HPA axis and that HPA axis activation is also associated with cardiovascular risk factors. b) HPA axis regulation: I have dissected potential mechanisms underlying the HPA axis activation in detailed human physiological studies and designed novel tests to investigate HPA axis regulation. I have used cutting-edge techniques surrounding the highly topical issue of epigenetic modifications as a consequence of adverse effects in utero. c) HPA axis and cardiometabolic/cognitive outcomes: I have explored the links between glucocorticoids and cardiovascular and cognitive end-points in cohorts of men and women with established disease in a MRC-funded 4-year follow-up study of 1000 people with diabetes, the Edinburgh Type 2 Diabetes Study.Since the 2008 award of the Edinburgh Tommy’s Centre for Maternal and Fetal Health I have been extending my studies on early life programming to investigate the consequences of maternal obesity on offspring health. This is particularly relevant with the rising world-wide epidemic of obesity. In an on-going longitudinal study of obese and lean pregnant women I am exploring the consequences of overnutrition on offspring disease and am carrying out detailed studies of energy balance and glucocorticoid action in obese pregnancy. I am a key investigator in a multi-centre randomised controlled trial investigating the role of metformin in preventing pregnancy complications (EMPOWAR). In collaboration with colleagues in Edinburgh I am using novel magnetic resonance imaging techniques to study the influence of glucocorticoids on fetal brain growth in utero. In collaboration with colleagues at the University of Aberdeen I have demonstrated, for the first time, a link between maternal obesity in pregnancy and offspring all-cause mortality.


Funding body Principal grant holder Title Start date End date Amount
1 UK-India Education and Research Initiative Rebecca Reynolds Household Food Insecurity, Food Practices and Health Risks among Indian Women 01/01/2015 31/01/2016 3954
2 Chief Scientist Office Jonathan Seckl Investigation of the long-term effects of intrauterine exposure to Maternal Diabetes: A Record Linkage Study 01/05/2013 31/10/2013 5441
3 CSO Rebecca Reynolds Maternal obesity and programming of offspring obesity and cardiometabolic risk 01/11/2010 31/10/2011 48622
4 MRC Jane Norman Does metformin reduce excess birthweight in offspring of obese pregnant women? A randomised controlled trial of efficacy, exploration of mechanisms and evaluation of other pregnancy complications 01/09/2010 31/08/2014 1025906
5 UoE Dev Trust Rebecca Reynolds Small project grant. 01/05/2010 30/09/2011 1200
6 CSO Rebecca Reynolds Maternal obesity and programing of offspring obesity and cardiometabolic risk 01/03/2010 28/02/2011 48622
7 Marato TV3 Foundation Rebecca Reynolds Hormonal, Inflammatory, Genetic, Familial and Clinical predictora of weight gain in 1st psychotic and manic episodes 01/10/2009 31/08/2011 37320
8 Sir Jules Thorn Trust Rebecca Reynolds PhD Scholarship 2009; Epigenetic modifications in the early life programming of disease: impact on nutritional status 01/07/2009 30/06/2006 78580
9 University of Edinburgh Clinical Research Facility Shareen Forbes Use of the BOD-POD for measuring infant, adolescent and adult body composition. 01/07/2009 30000
10 Diabetes UK Amanda Drake Equipment grant: Funding for Life Measurement Inc. PEA POD infant body composition system 01/06/2009 03/06/2010 60000