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MicroRNA and Extracellular Vesicles Mediation of Embryo-Maternal Communication

Department of Oncology and Metabolism

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Prof Alireza Fazeli , Dr P Heath Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Infertility is a substantial problem affecting couples worldwide. The scars inflicted on couples as a result of not being able to conceive affects their general health, mental well-being and even raising social issues particularly in the old age. This is a worldwide problem that is growing and currently affects 1 in 6 couples, who consequently rely on the use of assisted reproductive technologies (ART). The efficiency of ART is very low, resulting in high financial costs for treatment and creating substantial economic burdens for patients and their families. The main bottleneck of the current ARTs is the rate of the embryo implantation failure, which is around 70%. The success or failure of implantation may depend on the embryo’s own ability to implant, the receptivity of the uterus to accept the embryo, or a combination of both.

In recent years, a new paradigm has arisen pointing to the role that the transfer of different RNA species may play in the process of cell-to-cell communication. Research conducted in our lab and others have shown such RNA transfer is taking place at the time of conception between a ‘good’ embryo and the mother leading to a successful implantation. Our aim in the current project is to understand if Extracellular Vesicles (EVs) are involved in dialogue between the embryo and the maternal tract and if microRNAs are transferred from embryo to endometrium which are able to affect the periconception environment.

Our laboratory is well experienced in different in vitro 3-dimensional culture system models of human implantation, EV research, RNA metabolic labeling and next generation sequencing. We provide a first class training environment for our students. In addition the Sheffield post-Graduate school provides our PhD students with training in many different transferable skills. Our industrial partner (SPD Development Company Limited) in this research project is a leader of development of pregnancy diagnostic technologies. Hence, the project will provide an excellent environment for the prospect PhD student in both academic and industrial training aspects.

Funding Notes

This project is open to self-funded students only.

Entry Requirements:
Candidates must have a first or upper second class honors degree or significant research experience.


Interested candidates should in the first instance contact Alireza Fazeli, [email protected]

How to apply:
Please complete a University Postgraduate Research Application form available here:

Please clearly state the prospective main supervisor in the respective box and select Oncology and Metabolism as the department.
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