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The role of micronutrients in pregnancy

pregnant woman

Investigate the effect of micronutrients such as folate on placental function during pregnancy

Pregnancy complications such as pre-eclampsia, intrauterine growth restriction, gestational diabetes and preterm birth affect about 20% of human pregnancies. These pregnancy complications predict lifelong health and sometimes mortality for the baby and/or the mother. Deficiencies in micronutrients in the mother’s diet including folate and vitamin D prior to and during pregnancy have been implicated in these adverse pregnancy outcomes. Exciting research in the Roberts’ laboratory has found clear associations between maternal micronutrient status and pregnancy outcomes and this project investigates the role of the placenta in this association. The placenta has a very important role in providing nutrition for optimal growth and development of the baby.

First trimester and term placental explants will be used in cell culture experiments to determine the effect of folate on changes in placental explant growth, apoptosis, development, gene expression and DNA methylation status. Investigating the effect of micronutrients on placental function is a relatively new area of research with the potential to determine factors that go awry in the placenta during early pregnancy leading to placental insufficiency. Moreover, results of this project may lead to identifying nutritional guidelines and/or therapeutics to address the increasing prevalence of pregnancy complications not only in Australia but worldwide. In summary, this project will ideally suit an enthusiastic student who is interested in learning more about pregnancy, maternal nutrition and placenta

You will develop skills in:


  • Placenta explants/cell culture
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • DNA and RNA extractions
  • Quantitative PCR

Key References:

Wilson RL, Grieger JA, Bianco-Miotto T, Roberts CT. Association between Maternal Zinc Status, Dietary Zinc Intake and Pregnancy Complications: A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2016;8(10). pii: E641.

Roberts, C.T. IFPA Award Lecture: Complicated interactions between genes and the environment in placentation, pregnancy outcome and long term health. Placenta 31, S47-S53 (2010).


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, Honours projects - Molecular and biomedical science: Other