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Epigenetic regulation in placenta development

Honours in Molecular and biomedical science

Learn more about epigenetics in placenta development using molecular techniques

The best known function of the placenta is to mediate fetal-maternal exchange throughout pregnancy. It also plays a major role in directing maternal adaptation to pregnancy by secreting a variety of steroid and peptide hormones that modulate maternal physiology without which pregnancy could not be sustained. Although the placenta is a shared organ between mother and fetus, it is an extra-embryonic tissue and is primarily regulated by the fetal genome. The placenta separates from mother and fetus after birth, making it a truly transient organ. For this reason, the epigenetic mechanisms involved in placenta development may not be under the same constraints as other somatic tissues.

Epigenetic mechanisms, like DNA methylation, regulate gene expression without altering the underlying DNA sequence and are critical during development. By determining how epigenetic profiles change in the placenta throughout pregnancy and in response to adverse outcomes we can identify epigenetic biomarkers indicative of future risk of pregnancy complications. In summary, this project will ideally suit an enthusiastic student who is interested in learning more about epigenetics in placenta development and will suit a student interested in learning molecular techniques and working with nucleic acids.

You will develop skills in:

  • Nucleic acid extraction
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Quantitative PCR
  • DNA methylation

Key References:

Bianco-Miotto T, Mayne BT, Buckberry S, Breen J, Rodriguez Lopez CM, Roberts CT. Recent progress towards understanding the role of DNA methylation in human placental development. Reproduction. 2016;152(1):R23-30.

Mayne BT, Leemaqz SY, Smith AK, Breen J, Roberts CT, Bianco-Miotto T. Accelerated placental aging in early onset preeclampsia pregnancies identified by DNA methylation. Epigenomics. 2017;9(3):279-289.


Dr Tina Bianco-Miotto

Co supervisors:  Prof Claire Roberts (Adelaide Medical School)

Research area: Nutrition Science

Recommended honours enrolment: Honours in Food and Nutrition Science

Tagged in Honours projects - Food and Nutrition Science, Honours projects - Tina Bianco-Miotto, Honours projects - Molecular and biomedical science, Honours projects - Claire Roberts