Janna Morrison


University of South Australia, North Terrace | City West Campus
Fellows, Graduates

Research Interests

Professor Morrison’s research uses a range of models and analytical techniques to investigate how the physiological environment from before conception and during pregnancy can contribute to a range of conditions in adulthood such as cardiovascular disease, asthma, obesity and diabetes. Functional studies of blood pressure regulation and glucose tolerance are linked to the molecular signaling pathways that regulated these events. We are one of few groups internationally that uses MRI to measure fetal hemodynamics, fetal oxygenation and fetal cardiac function in preclinical models and relates these findings to organ specific molecular signalling.


Cross-Appointed to Physiology, UofT
Cross-Appointed to SickKids

Primary: UniSA: Clinical and Health, University of South Australia

Research Synopsis:

Research Interests:

Current research focusses on how the fetal cardiovascular system responds to changes in nutrient supply before conception and during pregnancy. Prof Morrison uses Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to measure blood flow and oxygen saturation in the fetus and then links this data to the molecular signaling pathways that control cardiac growth. She also studies how the fetus regulates its blood pressure to maintain adequate perfusion to organs to promote optimal growth and development. More recently, she has looked at the other end of the spectrum, the effects of maternal obesity on heart development.

Keywords: fetal growth restriction, fetal development, artificial placenta, cardiac proliferation and repair, blood pressure regulation  

Detailed Description:

Professor Janna Morrison is Director of Health and Biomedical Innovation at the University of South Australia and Head of the Early Origins of Adult Health Research Group. She is a Fellow of the Cardiovascular Section of the American Physiological Society. Her research focusses on how the fetal cardiovascular system responds to changes in nutrient supply during pregnancy, using MRI to study blood flow and oxygenation in preclinical models of fetal growth restriction. She is Reviewing Editor for the Journal of Physiology and Editor of Themed Issues for the Journal of the Developmental Origins of Adult Health.

She has held continual fellowships from 2003-2021, most recently an ARC Future Fellow (2018-2021). Her work in the field of fetal physiology, where she is pioneering the use of MRI to create healthy adults by understanding fetal growth will change lives. In the last 5 years she has brought in >$8M of funding as CIA, published 90 publications, with 24 in the last 12 months alone and over 200 in her career. Her h-index of 38 (Scopus) and impact is 9.53 where the world average is 1 (InCites) points to her esteem in the field and how her work inspires and leads others. She is invited to speak at international and national perinatal, cardiac and fetal physiology meetings each year.

Her vision is for fewer Australians to die from heart disease and my research examines the molecular and cellular mechanisms linking poor prenatal growth with increased risk of cardiovascular disease in adult life. Babies born small have hearts with fewer but larger heart muscle cells (hypertrophy). World-wide epidemiological studies show that small babies (<2.5kg) are at 50% higher risk for heart disease as adults, including hypertension, stroke and heart attack. Her research aims to use well- established and clinically-relevant large animal models of pregnancy and heart disease to enable development and testing of new MRI- based in utero diagnosis to identify small fetuses at-risk of hypertrophic heart development, improving on current ultrasound method and aiming to provide interventions to halt or reverse unhealthy heart development in utero.


SickKids: Dr Mike Seed, Dr Christopher Macgowan, Dr Steven Miller, Cr Christoph Haller, Dr Alejandro Floh, Dr Mark McVey
Kings College London: Dr Andrew Melbourne
University College London: Prof Anna David
Western University: A/Prof Tim Regnault
Cambridge: Prof Dino Giussani
University of Adelaide: Dr Kathy Gatford, Dr Michael Stark
Mater Research Institute: Prof Vicki Clifton
UniSA: A/Prof Michael Wiese, A/Prof Sally Plush, Prof Sandra Orgieg


Procedures: Blood pressure studies, fetal MRI, gene/protein expression and localisation, fetal surgery


MRI, PowerLab, blood gas machine, PCR.


Alex Charest-Pekeski (PhD candidate)
Steven Cho (PhD candidate)

University of Adelaide:
Andrea Rofe (PhD candidate)
Joshua Robinson (PhD candidate)

Melanie Bertossa (MSc. Candidate)
Catherine Dimasi (PhD candidate)
Milly Bennet (PhD candidate)
Jordan Minns (Honours student)

Recent Publications

  1. MD Wiese, AS Meakin, T Varcoe, JRT Darby, O Sarrl, P Kiser, EL Bradshaw, T Regnault, JL Morrison, Hepatic cytochrome P450 function is reduced by life-long Western diet consumption in guinea pig independent of birth weight, Life Sciences, 2021 Dec 15;287:120133. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2021.120133. Epub 2021 Nov 11. PMID: 34774623
  2. GM McBride, AS Meakin, JY Soo, JRT Darby, TJ Varcoe, EL Bradshaw, MC Lock, SL Holman, BS Saini, CK Macgowan, M Seed, MJ Berry, MD Wiese*, JL Morrison*, Intrauterine growth restriction alters the activity of drug metabolising enzymes in the maternal-placental-fetal unit, Life Sciences, 2021, Nov; 286:120016, doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2021.120016
  3. Padhee M, McMillen IC, Zhang S, MacLaughlin SM, Armitage JA, Head GA, Darby JRT, Kelly JM, Rudiger SR, Kleemann DO, Walker SK, Morrison JL. Impact of in vitro embryo culture and transfer on blood pressure regulation in the adolescent lamb. J Dev Orig Health Dis. 2021 Oct;12(5):731-737. doi: 10.1017/S2040174420001014. Epub 2020 Nov 13. PMID: 33185521
  4. E Schrauben, JRT Darby, M Berry, BS Saini, M Quinn, S Holman, EL Bradshaw, MC Lock, SR Perumal, S Cho, T Aujla, M Seed, C Macgowan, JL Morrison, Open or closed: Changes in ductus arteriosus flow patterns at birth using 4D flow MRI in newborn piglets, Physiological Reports, 9(17): e14999, September 2021, doi: 10.14814/phy2.14999
  5. Dimasi CG, Lazniewska J, Plush SE, Saini BS, Holman SL, Cho SKS, Wiese MD, Sorvina A, Macgowan CK, Seed M, Brooks DA, Morrison JL*, Darby JRT*. Redox ratio in the left ventricle of the growth restricted fetus is positively correlated with cardiac output. J Biophotonics. 2021 Sep 9:e202100157. doi: 10.1002/jbio.202100157. Online ahead of print. PMID: 34499415

ORCID 0000-0002-8602-8519