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PROJECT TITLE

Circulating trophoblast extracellular vesicles as a marker for intrauterine growth restriction

SUPERVISORS

Dr Manu Vatish

DESCRIPTION OF PROJECT

Fetal growth restriction (FGR) is a major obstetric problem. Despite its considerable severity and incidence (5-10% of all pregnancies) and contrary to other diseases such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes, there are no reliable predictive tests, and there is no treatment. Fetal growth is determined by the interaction between genetically predetermined growth potential and placental, maternal, fetal and external factors. When a fetus fails to achieve its predetermined growth potential, it is said to be growth restricted and is at increased risk for significant complications. FGR is the second leading cause of perinatal mortality, being associated with approximately 30% of all stillbirths, particularly in resource-limited settings where it might not even be diagnosed.

FGR increases the risk for premature birth, perinatal asphyxia and other perinatal morbidities (intubation at birth, seizures and sepsis); and in the long term, it is associated with impaired neurological and cognitive development and endocrine and cardiovascular disorders. 

TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES

There are opportunities for training in general molecular biology (western blotting, IHC, PCR and RT-PCR etc), but importantly the project offers additional training in placental STBEV isolation (using an ex vivo placental perfusion model) and flow cytometry and nanoparticle tracking analysis to characterise them. The project will also lead to training in proteomics/transcriptomic analysis as well as bioinformatics. The group is large and has students from around the world each pursuing independent (but inter-related) strands of research. There will be opportunities to present work (at national & international conferences), prepare and submit manuscripts.

As well as the specific training detailed above, students will have access to a wide-range of seminars and training opportunities through the many research institutes and centres based in Oxford.