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Isolated sheep trophoblast cells

 Isolated sheep trophoblast cells transfected with a lentivirus containing cytomegalovirus promoter.

Pregnancy, Development, and Stem Cell Biology

​The successful delivery of a healthy newborn is the ultimate goal of the mammalian reproductive system. A number of critical developmental windows must be negotiated for successful establishment and maintenance of pregnancy, as well as for optimal fetal development and delivery. Pregnancy is the physiological state where convergence of developmental biology, metabolism, stem cell biology, and reproductive biology occurs. It has been estimated that while only one percent of life is spent in utero, 80 percent of the lifetime cell divisions occur in utero. Consequently, complications in negotiating the "developmental windows" of pregnancy can result in recurrent miscarriage, preeclampsia, intrauterine growth restriction, congenital malformations, preterm delivery, and fetal demise.

Furthermore, it is now clear that the progression of pregnancy impacts the health and well-being of the offspring throughout life. This is suppported by the plethora of data demonstrating the link between suboptimal in utero development and the predisposition for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and stroke (metabolic syndrome) as well as a growing list of mental disorders including autism, schizophrenia, and depression. 

Faculty research efforts associated with this focal group span initial embryonic development through parturition, and include projects on:

  • ​maternal-to-zygotic genome transition
  • maternal recognition of pregnancy
  • the regulation of trophoblast stem cell differentiation, implantation, and placentation
  • primordial germ cell and gonad development
  • gonad and cardiac development in normal and compromised pregnancies
  • the impact of environmental stressors
  • toxins and viral infections on fetal and postnatal development and well-being
  • the regulation of uterine contractions with the onset of labor
Learn more about the work our faculty are doing by visiting our faculty profile pages.