Supervisor: Dr Miguel Constância
Placental vascular development during pregnancy is essential for an adequate nutrient and substrate supply to the fetus. A global expansion of the fetoplacental capillary tree is observed during late pregnancy, which occurs to meet the higher demands for maternal nutrients as the fetus grows bigger. However, the genetic and molecular mechanisms that control the expansion of the placental vascular tree are largely unknown. Defects in placental angiogenesis are likely to underpin a number of pregnancy complications, most notably late-onset intra-uterine growth restriction.
We have recently established that insulin growth factors (Igf2 and Igf1) play key roles in placental angiogenesis (Sandovici et al., unpublished). Accordingly, the expansion of the placental vascular tree is impaired in mice that lack Igfs in fetal organs (Sandovici et al., unpublished). This project will study the mechanisms by which Igfs control placental angiogenesis, including downstream signaling pathways and biomechanical factors such as shear stress. Experimental studies in the placenta will be supplemented with analyses of other organs to establish the overall requirement of Igfs in angiogenesis in vivo.
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