Current Projects

Fetal growth restriction is a leading cause of stillbirth and miscarriage and often associated with inappropriate placental development and/or function. The placenta is responsible for coordinating the transfer of nutrients and oxygen between mother and baby during pregnancy and usually disposed after birth. Current treatment options for placental dysfunction during pregnancy are limited however, with the advances in nanomedicine potential treatments are emerging. In this project, we have developed a non-viral, placenta-specific transgene delivery system that targets placental dysfunction. Using both a guinea-pig model of fetal growth restriction and human placenta culture models, we are investigating the efficacy of gene transfer and placenta-specific expression of growth factors in correcting inadequate placental function and fetal growth. The overall goal is to develop a therapy for pregnant women that targets the placenta directly and is effective in improving fetal growth that may be used to prevent pregnancy complications such as stillbirth, miscarriage and preterm delivery.

 In the placenta, multiple cell types exist in close proximity and may undergo paracrine regulation following an insult or treatment of another cell type. Classic in Vitro studies involve the culture of one cell type such as placental trophoblast. Although useful, these types of studies may not reflect the in Vivo environment per se. In this project we have developed a co-culture model of placental endothelial cells and trophoblast cells and investigate the regulation of each cell type both morphologically and functionally.
 Heart and placental development occurs concurrently in early pregnancy and factors may regulate both organs leading to congenital malformations. HLHS is one condition that may include both heart and placental defects. This project is investigating the abnormalities seen in the placenta following delivery of HLHS patients and shedding light on novel insights into the development of reduced fetal growth in HLHS.