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Placental endocrine function and materno-fetal resource allocation during pregnancy (Amanda Sferruzzi-Perri)

Supervisor: Dr Amanda Sferruzzi-Perri

During pregnancy adequate nutrients must be supplied to the fetus for growth yet sufficient resources must also be retained by the mother to maintain her health and subsequent lactation. The placenta is central to this materno-fetal nutrient balance as it is responsible for substrate transfer to the fetus. However, the placenta also secretes hormones into the maternal circulation which are thought to adapt maternal metabolism in favour of fetal nutrient delivery. Relative to knowledge on placental transport function, very little about the nature or wider biological significance of placental endocrine function in pregnancy success. Thus one major aim of the laboratory is to identify the role and nature of placental endocrine function in materno-fetal resource allocation during pregnancy and determine its importance for fetal growth, maternal health and offspring outcome. A PhD project could involve:

- Assessing the consequences of genetically-altered placental endocrine cells on maternal metabolic profile and fetal nutrient acquisition and growth

- Characterising the secretome of placental endocrine cells and identifying the function of secreted candidates

- Determining whether changes in maternal-fetal resource allocation due to altered placental endocrine function program ill health of the offspring or mother later in life

Depending on the project chosen, a PhD could employ cell-specific gene manipulation in mice, in vivo metabolic tests (glucose tolerance tests, insulin tolerance tests, hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamps), in situ functional assays (placental nutrient transport assays, mitochondrial respirometry), in vitro cell culture, histological (immunohistochemistry, stereology) and biochemical assays (enzyme assays) and molecular (RNAseq, real time PCR, western blotting) and proteomic methodologies (mass spectrometry). For further details on what a specific rotation and PhD project would entail, please contact me directly.


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