Teratology is the branch of medical science which studies the causes and underlying mechanisms of congenital birth defects. A teratogen can consist of any chemical, infectious or environmental agent capable of disrupting normal embryo-fetal development following exposure during pregnancy. Understanding the biological processes by which a teratogen causes congenital malformations requires the integration of fundamental scientific knowledge from a diverse range of disciplines including toxicology, developmental and molecular biology. Research within the field of teratology, can be utilised to inform the pharmaceutical industry and government agencies of preventative measures and treatment strategies for pregnant females and their offspring. This scientific knowledge can be further translated into a clinical setting within the specialties of prenatal medicine, obstetrics, neonatology and paediatrics. Alcohol, one of the oldest intoxicants in the world, has long been documented as a human teratogen and is a primary focus within this research stream.
Dr. Deirdre Brennan is a developmental biologist who leads research in the area of congenital birth defects and developmental disorders. Utilising a variety of microscopy, immunohistochemical and molecular biology techniques, recent work has focused on exploring the underlying molecular mechanisms of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome related ocular defects using in vitro and in vivo model systems.