Research Summary

We study the biochemistry underpinning early maternal-embryo dialogue in health and disease. Through leveraging complementary in vivo (large animal) and in vitro (human and animal tissue) approaches, our long-term aim is to improve agricultural productivity, pregnancy outcomes, and resulting offspring wellbeing.

Current Projects

Elucidating the drivers of bovine conceptus elongation

Conceptus elongation is a fascinating developmental phenomenon coinciding with a period of high pregnancy loss in cattle. However, very little is understood about the process on a cellular and molecular level. Our overarching hypothesis is that discovering what precisely drives conceptus elongation in the lab will allow us to find out how and why it often fails on the farm. The ultimate goal is to reduce embryo mortality, thereby improving bovine reproductive efficiency, while concomitantly reducing greenhouse gas emmissions.

Modelling human uterine gland behaviour in health and disease

Spontaneous early pregnancy loss is the most common obstetric problem among women of reproductive age. Suboptimal endometrial gland function is presumed etiologic for two-thirds of implantation failures. However, studying human uterine fluid formation and regulation in vivo is associated with obvious ethical and technical limitations. To circumvent these challenges, we utilize endometrial epithelial organoids. These produce an in vitro intra-organoid fluid (IOF), whose composition is analogous to in vivo uterine fluid (Simintiras et al. 2021; PNAS). Using this model, we are investigating how uterine fluid composition and behaviour is compromised under systemic subfertility-associated mimicked conditions. The ultimate goal is to improve pregnancy outcomes and resulting offspring wellbeing.