Thesis: Wnt signalling and its regulation in placentation and implantation
Implantation of the blastocyst and early development of the placenta are crucial for successful fetal growth and development. These processes are promoted by the integration of a complex network of signalling molecules mediating cell-to-cell/cell-to-extracellular matrix communications. Accumulating evidence suggests that Wnt signalling pathways play an important role in implantation and placentation. A limited number of Wnt family knockout mice studies have revealed reproductive-related phenotypes, which is probably due to the fact that genome-wide deletion of many Wnt family-related genes results in embryonic lethality. Changes in Wnt signalling components have also been reported in cancers of reproductive tissues, in endometriosis and in gestational diseases. However, our knowledge relating to Wnt signalling interactions between the conceptus, placenta and uterus is far from complete and our understanding of Wnt signalling in reproductive disorders remains in its infancy. My research focuses on the reciprocal Wnt signalling between maternal and fetal cells. I am interested in the role/effects of secreted Wnt antagonists DKK1 and sFRP4 in implantation and early placentation as a possible autocrine or paracrine signalling factors. I am also interested in determining possible aberrations in Wnt signalling in pregnancy-related complications and in women with unexplained infertility.
Why my research is important
Understanding the critical events underpinning successful implantation and placentation has been a challenge for reproductive and developmental biologists. However, this knowledge is necessary to both reduce infertility and prevent pregnancy related complications, such as preeclampsia and intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), and also to develop novel contraceptive approaches.