Uterine Biology - Maternal Fetal Interactions

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Asgi Fazleabas, PhD.

Understanding the critical cellular events that define synchrony between the developing embryo and the maternal uterus in a species that is phylogenetically related to humans will be paramount in improving the success of assisted reproductive therapies. Ongoing studies in the Fazleabas laboratory are at the leading edge of this type of research endeavor.

His laboratory was the first to conclusively demonstrate that signals from the primate embryo, like those of other species, induce cell specific changes in uterine gene expression.

These changes are thought to play critical roles in establishing a synchrony between the maternal environment and the developing embryo that is a pre requisite for a successful pregnancy. These studies have clearly elucidated the mechanisms by which apoptosis is inhibited within the uterus in the presence of a  conceptus, the fundamental hormonal and cellular requirements associated with the process of decidualization and potential functions of uterine proteins in the establishment of pregnancy. A hallmark of all the studies from his laboratory is the ability to confirm all their in vitro findings in vivo as a fundamental application of true physiology in the appropriate tissue context.  

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Richard E. Leach, MD, FACOG, FACS

Professor and Chair

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Karen Racicot, PhD.

Three major research projects include:

1) Defining how in utero inflammation caused by environmental factors results in atypical fetal development and offspring disease. Maternal adiposity, viral/bacterial infection and toxins have all been shown to induce placental inflammation and are associated with the development of multiple diseases in the future offspring. Our studies address how dysregulation of the placenta or maternal immune response affects fetal programming and development of diseases such as allergic asthma.

2) Characterizing the role of placental microflora in fetal immune development. While historically the upper reproductive tract was thought to be a sterile environment during pregnancy, there is now evidence the healthy placenta is home to a vibrant microflora. We hypothesize the fetal environment is influenced by both the presence of these microflora and the placental/maternal response that they elicit, and they contribute to the development and maturation of the fetal immune system.

3) Identification of non-invasive biomarkers that are predictive of placental function in early pregnancy. We aim to identify “biological signatures” during early pregnancy that are associated with abnormal or insufficient placental development and offspring disease. This test will have the potential to be a screening tool used to determine if women require treatment to ensure placental and fetal health.


Sangeeta Devi Yendrembam, PhD

Assistant Professor