Sir Charles Hercus Health Research Fellowship (2016 funding round)

Dr Joanna James
The University of Auckland
Can placental stem cells be used to improve fetal outcomes?
48 months

Lay summary

Dr James' career is built on understanding how the placenta functions to ensure pregnancy success. The placenta is the baby’s life-support system in utero, but for 1 in 10 pregnancies it functions poorly, seriously restricting the baby’s growth and/or development. However, we understand little about how the human placenta forms, or why it may fail, and there is no effective treatment for faulty placentas. Stem cells play vital roles in directing organogenesis, and remain resident in many adult tissues where they facilitate organ regeneration/repair. Therapeutically stem cells can regenerate damaged tissues and modulate diseased microenvironments. This research will use the placental stem cells to understand how healthy placentas are made and how inadequacies in stem cell function contribute to pregnancy disorders in order to achieve Dr James' long term career goal of using placental stem cells to treat failing placentas.

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