Fetal growth restriction (FGR) is a serious pregnancy complication, affecting 3-8% of pregnancies and associated with a significant increase in perinatal morbidity, mortality and stillbirth. Associations between low birth weight and increased risk of cardiovascular disease in adulthood have also been well documented, with growing evidence that programming during prenatal life can predispose to cardiovascular disease in later life.
In recent work we discovered that the fetoplacental circulation is the primary locus that defines vascular resistance in the umbilico-placental circulation. In idiopathic FGR we found that the fetoplacental vasculature is dysfunctional in this disease, resulting in reduced flow mediated vasodilation (FMVD) and presenting as a general increased placental vascular resistance.
This study aims to stratify FGR according to (i) fetal plasma endocrine imbalance, (ii) inherent vascular dysregulation in response to shear stress and (iii) non-vascular aetiology. A translational arm will focus on safe pregnancy therapies designed to promote the eNOS signalling pathway within the fetoplacental circulation to counteract the high resistance often found in this disease.
The project aims to test whether potentiation of the eNOS signalling pathway, through a variety of therapeutic strategies, will provide vascular protection to the fetoplacental circulation in FGR pregnancy, by reducing resistance to blood flow and counteracting inflammation.
Using fresh placentas from FGR pregnancies, collected at the point of delivery from women who had been recruited at the Manchester Placenta Clinic, the project will utilise whole tissue and cellular models to evaluate and type case-specific physiological and biochemical vascular responses.
The project will be conducted within the Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre, the largest translational placental research group in Europe. The successful candidate will gain from skills training in areas such as microscopy, isolation and culture of human placental chorionic plate endothelial cells (HPAECs) and placental myocytes, shear stress cell-flow culture, ex vivo dual perfusion of the human placental lobule, protein biochemistry, cell signalling and biochemical assays, immunohistochemistry.
Candidates are expected to hold a minimum upper-second (or equivalent) undergraduate degree in a related biomedical/biological science, reproductive health or analytical chemistry. A Masters qualification in a similar area would be an advantage as would previous experience of vascular physiology.
This 3-year full-time PhD is open to candidates able to provide evidence of self-arranged funding/sponsorship.
Any enquiries relating to the project and/or suitability should be directed to Dr Brownbill. Applications are invited on an on-going basis but early expression of interest is encouraged.
Jones, S., Bischof, H., Johnstone, E., Greenwood, S, Wareing, M., Sibley, C., Brownbill, P. (2013) Endothelial dysfunction of the fetoplacental circulation contributes to the increased vascular resistance observed in fetal growth restriction. Placenta 34, A22
Jones, S., Bischof, H., Johnstone, E., Greenwood, S, Wareing, M., Sibley, C., Brownbill, P. (2013) Fetal inflow hydrostatic pressure measurements in the ex-vivo perfused placenta correlate with umbilical artery Doppler RI and PI values. Placenta 34, A64
Jones, S., Bischof, H., Johnstone, E., Lang, I., Desoye, G., Greenwood, S., Wareing, M., Sibley, C., Brownbill. P. Elevated shear stress in fetal growth restriction results in a sustained increase in endothelial expression and activation of eNOS and iNOS in the fetoplacental vasculature. Placenta 34, A64
Lattey, K., Bischof, H., Hayward, C., Brownbill, P., Jones, S. (2014) TRPV4; a potential new target to increase placental blood flow in fetal growth restricted pregnancies? Heart 100, A96
Junaid TO, Brownbill P, Chalmers N, Johnstone ED, Aplin JD. (2014) Fetoplacental vascular alterations associated with fetal growth restriction. Placenta 35(10):808-15