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(BBSRC DTP) Understanding the contribution of dietary extracellular vesicles to healthy human development


Project Description

The ability to adapt behaviour in response to nutrient availability is important for all cells but particularly so for trophoblasts, as these cells form the placenta - the interface between mother and fetus - and act as fetal sentinels of the maternal environment. Maternal diet undoubtedly influences placental function, and therefore fetal growth; fruit and vegetables are particularly beneficial. However little is known about the molecular mechanisms involved in trophoblast recognition of dietary-derived signals or how the information is translated into altered placental behaviour.

We have recent data to suggest a role for components of the extracellular vesicles (EVs) produced by plants and in this proposal we aim to conduct a systems-level analysis of the effect of fruit and vegetables on placental development/function and fetal growth to identify the pathways linking maternal diet and normal human development.

Specifically we will:

1. establish the effect of EVs from a selected range of fruit and vegetables on the function of in vitro models of human intestine (Caco-2cells) and ex vivo explants of human placenta;
2. perform a multi-level ‘omic analysis of the composition of EVs with beneficial effects and then use bioinformatic analyses to identify the ‘pro-placenta’ components;
3. administer the ‘pro-placenta’ molecules to rodent models to determine their effect on placental and fetal growth in vivo.


An inadequate maternal diet contributes to poor fetal growth and results in offspring with an increased risk of developing chronic diseases and a poorer quality of life in adulthood. Therefore uncovering these pathways is a key step in designing strategies, including dietary interventions, to protect the fetus from the adverse health trajectory initiated by exposure to suboptimal nutrition in early life.

Entry Requirements:
Applications are invited from UK/EU nationals only. Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, at least an upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject.

Funding Notes

This project is to be funded under the BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership. If you are interested in this project, please make direct contact with the Principal Supervisor to arrange to discuss the project further as soon as possible. You MUST also submit an online application form - full details on how to apply can be found on the BBSRC DTP website View Website

As an equal opportunities institution we welcome applicants from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and transgender status. All appointments are made on merit.

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