Andrew Watson

Genetics & Development Dr. Andrew Watson


Scientist, Division of Genetics and Development, Children’s Health Research Institute
Associate Dean, Graduate and PostDoctoral Affairs, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western University
Professor, Departments of Obstetrics & Gynaecology and Physiology & Pharmacology, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western University
Scientist, Lawson Health Research Institute

How my research helps children

My work is focused on understanding the earliest stages of development which includes the period from fertilization to implantation to the uterus and the beginnings of pregnancy.  All of our studies use an animal model to investigate this early period of development.  Our results from animal studies can be translated to the human and help clinicians develop better ways of helping couples with fertility problems conceive and have their families.  Research has demonstrated that the very beginning of development has a major impact on not only whether pregnancy will occur but also on the health of the fetus, newborn, child and even on susceptibility to disease in advanced life.  Thus it is important to ensure that safe and efficient methods are applied in the clinic to ensure that the assistance provided to couples with fertility challenges not only allows them to start their family but also ensures that their family will enjoy the best health possible throughout their lifetime.


Current Research Activities

Dr. Watson’s research investigates the mechanisms controlling development of the fertilized oocyte through the first week or preimplantation period of development, which prepares the early embryo for uterine implantation and initiation of pregnancy.  He has supervised or co-supervised the research of 20 graduate students and currently supervises 3 graduate students.  Dr. Watson has co-authored 94 peer reviewed publications and has presented 67 invited lectures to date.

Research Team

Dr. Watson’s research team consists of three graduate students and a Research Associate.  Dr. Michele Calder manages Dr. Watson’s laboratory and assists greatly with trainee mentorship in addition to overseeing her own research project.  Dr. Calder has worked with Dr. Watson for over a decade and is interested in investigating the molecular events that control the proper development of oocytes and early embryos and also the effect the external environment can impose on those events.  Sarah Lalone is a PhD student in Dr. Watson's laboratory.  Sarah's research is defining the mechanisms that control the development of the outer cell layer of the early embryo.  This cell layer eventually become the placenta and also facilitates implantation thus it is important to investigate how it forms.  Sarah is also investigating the impact of vitrification or cryopreservation on embryo health.  Danyka Belanger is an MSc student that is nearing completion of her thesis.  Danyka's work is investigating the safety of ginseng consumption on early development and pregnanch.  Paul Ricci is investigating the regulation of implantation and how embryonic signals oversee this critical event.  Overall our research is focused on providing a better understanding of the events that control early pregnancy with expected gains in our ability to treat the various forms of infertility.

Future Research Plans

My research will focus much more on directly helping patients with their fertility.  We will continue to explore the basic mechanisms controlling the first week of development but our emphasis will increasingly address the direct needs of the fertility clinic.  We are committed to developing an Oncofertility program to assist female cancer survivors conceive and to ensuring that assisted reproductive technologies are applied in the safest and most helpful ways possible.

Awards & Grants

Awards and Grants

Funding in support of The Maternal Environment Influence on Early Mammalian Development - Awarded by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC)

Nominated for Basic Science Teaching Award – The University of Western Ontario

Dean’s Award of Excellence for Outstanding contributions to Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry’s mission of Excellence – Awarded by The University of Western Ontario

Funding in support of Trophectoderm differentiation and the blastocyst – Awarded by Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)

Funding in support of CIHR Training Program in Reproduction, Early Development and the Impact on Health (REDIH) – Awarded by CIHR

Funding in support of Establishing a Women’s Fertility Preservation Program at LHSC – Awarded by London Health Sciences Centre Women’s Development Council

Recent Publications


Outer Space and Oocyte Developmental Competence: A Commentary
Watson AJ
Biol Reprod. 2012; 86:1-2

Activation of the XBP1 of the ERstress pathway occurs following embryo collection but not following embryo vitrification
Abraham T, Watson AJ
Mol Hum Reprod. 2011 Dec 7. [Epub ahead of print]

Ouabain stimulates a Na/K-ATPase-mediated SFK-activated signaling pathway that regulates tight junction function in the mouse blastocyst
Giannatselis H, Watson AJ
PLoS ONE. 2011; 6(8):e23704

Culture medium, gas atmosphere and MAPK inhibition affect regulation of RNA binding protein (RPB) targets during mouse preimplantation development
Calder MD, Watson PH, Watson AJ
Reproduction. 2011; 142:689-698

Oocyte peptides as paracrine tools for ovarian stimulation and oocyte maturation
Mottershead DG, Watson AJ
Mol Hum Reprod. 2009 Dec; 15(12):789-94

Genomic RNA profiling and the programme controlling preimplantation mammalian development
Bell CE, Calder MD, Watson AJ
Mol Hum Reprod. 2008 Dec; 14(12):691-701

SNAI1 and SNAI2 are asymmetrically expressed at the 2-cell stage and become segregated to the TE in the mouse blastocyst
Bell CE, Watson AJ
PLoS One. 2009 Dec 31; 4(12):e8530

Mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways mediate embryonic responses to culture medium osmolarity by regulating Aquaporin 3 and 9 expression and localization, as well as embryonic apoptosis
Bell CE, Larivière NM, Watson PH, Watson AJ
Hum Reprod. 2009 Jun; 24(6):1373-86

Preimplantation embryo programming: transcription, epigenetics, and culture environment
Duranthon V, Watson AJ, Lonergan P
Reproduction. 2008 Feb; 135(2):141-50

Detection of Staufen and ELAVL RNA binding proteins in cow oocytes and preimplantation embryos
Calder MD, Madan P, & Watson AJ
Zygote. 2008; 16:161-168

Oocyte cytoplasmic maturation: a key mediator of both oocyte and embryonic developmental competence
Watson AJ
J Anim Sci.  2007; 85:1-3

Na/K-ATPase beta1 subunit expression is required for blastocyst formation and normal assembly of trophectoderm tight junction-associated proteins
Madan P, Rose K, Watson AJ
J Biol Chem. 2007 Apr 20; 282(16):12127-34

Mouse preimplantation embryo responses to culture medium osmolarity include increased expression of CCM2 and p38 MAPK activation
Fong B, Watson PH, Watson AJ
BMC Dev Biol. 2007 Jan 10; 7:2

PP2Cdelta (Ppm1d, WIP1), an endogenous inhibitor of p38 MAPK, is regulated along with Trp53 and Cdkn2a following p38 MAPK inhibition during mouse preimplantation development
Hickson JA, Fong B, Watson PH, Watson AJ
Mol Reprod Dev. 2007 Jul; 74(7):821-34

Additional publications



Phone: (519) 661-2111, x89132
Email: awatson [at] uwo [dot] ca / andrew [dot] watson [at] schulich [dot] uwo [dot] ca

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