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Centre for Trophoblast Research


Placental and endometrial donations


The Centre for Trophoblast Research (CTR) promotes research into maternal-fetal interactions during normal pregnancy and how complications, such as infertility, miscarriage, restricted growth of the baby and pre-eclampsia, arise. Women’s health is an understudied area, which causes considerable ill-health and distress. Pregnancy-related complications and disorders account for much of this burden, causing significant maternal and fetal maternal morbidity and mortality, and having life-long effects on the mother and her offspring. The World Health Organisation estimates 800 women die worldwide each day due to issues around pregnancy and childbirth. Pre-term birth complications, birth asphyxia, birth trauma and neonatal sepsis and infections account for 8% of global disease burden (WHO). The CTR brings together researchers interested in different aspects of reproduction and pregnancy, from basic science to clinically related projects. It also includes clinicians and scientists working on virally-induced cervical and endometrial cancer, and on conditions such as endometriosis.

The CTR Biology of the Human Uterus in Pregnancy and Disease Biobank, REC reference number 17/EE/0151 facilitates bringing together both non-pregnant and pregnant maternal endometrial samples from the womb, and placental samples at different stages of gestation. Specifically, our tissue collection includes:

  • First trimester samples from women undergoing terminations of pregnancy
  • Term placental tissue samples from healthy and pathological pregnancies
  • Endometrial scratch biopsies form patients undergoing fertility treatments

All samples are collected on an anonymised basis.  The tissue is utilised to address questions pertaining to reproductive health. The principal focus of the CTR research is the establishment of a normal pregnancy and the origins of complications, such as miscarriage, poor fetal growth and pre-eclampsia. We are also interested in how common disorders of the endometrium, the lining of the womb, may arise, such as endometriosis and endometrial and cervical cancers.

The research takes a basic science, laboratory-based approach, involving experimental manipulations of cell cultures, or analyses of gene activity or cellular signalling networks in different tissues or cell isolates. We are interested ultimately in translating our findings to improving clinical outcomes. To this end, the research is based on samples from clinically well-phenotyped groups of women; for example, we investigate molecular and genetic markers of endometrial function in women with infertility or recurrent miscarriage. We also investigate how the placental molecular pathology differs in sub-types of pre-eclampsia, shedding light on the origins of this syndrome with the hope of identifying new avenues for intervention or treatment.

Whilst the majority of the data produced is relevant to the discipline of women's health, it is possible that some of the more basic research may have implications for the wider bio-medical field; for example, knowledge of the transcriptional networks maintaining trophoblast or endometrial stem cells may be relevant to other cell types. Equally, understanding the immune interactions at the maternal-fetal interface between genetically-related, but different, individuals may provide new insights into the evolutionary selective pressures that have shaped our immune system.