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Major scientific milestones

Listed in these pages are contributions from the CTR that have had a major impact on our understanding of trophoblast and placental biology. A full list of papers published by members of the CTR is available at Publications.

 

 

Scientific milestones 2019

 

Human placenta has no microbiome but can contain potential pathogens

Gordon Smith, Steve Charnock-Jones and the POPs team published a definitive study showing that placentas from normal pregnancies and those from cases of pre-eclampsia, pre-term delivery and small-for-gestational age babies do not have a microbiome.  Almost all the bacterial signals detected arose either by acquisition during the birth process or through contamination of laboratory reagents. This large and highly stringent study lays to rest the idea that the placenta harbour pathogens and that they may be the cause of common complications of pregnancy.

 

 

A single-cell molecular map of mouse gastrulation and early organogenesis

Jenny Nichols, Wolf Reik and collaborators published the first molecular map at single-cell resolution of cellular differentiation from pluripotency towards all major embryonic lineages during gastrulation in the mouse. Lewis Wolpert famously said that gastrulation is “truly the most important time in one’s life”. This comprehensive delineation of mammalian cell differentiation trajectories in vivo represents a baseline for understanding the effects of gene mutations during development, as well as a roadmap for the optimization of in vitro differentiation protocols for regenerative medicine.

 

 

Chronic fetal hypoxia disrupts the peri‐conceptual environment in next‐generation adult female rats

Catherine Aiken, Dino Giussani, Sue Ozanne and colleagues demonstrated that exposure of rats to chronic gestational hypoxia leads to accelerated ageing of the oviduct in adulthood. The oviduct plays a central role in early development as the site of gamete transport, fertilisation, and early development. Hence, accelerated ageing of the oviductal environment could have important implications for fertility and the health of future generations through developmental programming. 

 

 

Noncanonical mitochondrial unfolded protein response impairs placental oxidative phosphorylation in early-onset preeclampsia

Billy Yung, Andrew Murray and colleagues provided some of the first evidence of activation of the mitochondrial unfolded protein response in mammalian cells, observing a reduction in mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation in placentas from pregnancies complicated by early-onset pre-eclampsia. Understanding mitochondrial stress provides new insights into the pathophysiology of early-onset preeclampsia and other placentally-related complications of pregnancy.