I received a B.Sc. in Pathobiology (1999) and PhD (2003) from the University of Reading, where I worked with Dr David Leake, in collaboration with Professor Giovanni Mann at King's College London, to investigate how cell death in the arterial wall contributes to the development of atherosclerosis. I subsequently moved to The Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre at The University of Manchester to work in the laboratories of Professor John Aplin and Professor Phillip Baker. My postdoctoral research focused on how placental-derived trophoblast cells and uterine natural killer cells interact with and remodel the uterine spiral arteries during pregnancy. I also investigated the mechanisms that regulate trophoblast invasion, proliferation and survival. In 2010, I was awarded the prestigious Gabor Than Award for my contribution to the field of placentology.
In the same year, I was awarded a BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship to develop the use of vascular homing peptides as a targeted drug delivery system in pregnancy. I spent 2011 working in the laboratory of Professor Erkki Ruoslahti, where I identified a series of novel placental homing peptides. Upon my return to Manchester, I sought to utilize these peptides to create biocompatible nanocarriers for targeted delivery of therapeutics to the placenta. In May 2013, my two PhD students and I won second prize of £10,000 in the OBR OneStart European business start-up competition, reflecting the continued success of my research programme.
Staff and students:
Anna King, PhD student "Targeted delivery of nanotherapeutics to the placenta " Co-supervised with Prof Nicola Tirelli and Prof. John Aplin (2012-2015).
Natalie Cureton, PhD student "Development of nanocarriers for targeted drug delivery to the placenta" Co-supervised with Prof Nicola Tirelli and Prof. John Aplin (2012-2016).
Sylvia Lui, PhD student "Blockade of inflammatory pathways in idiopathic preterm labour" Co-supervised with Dr Rebecca Jones, Dr Adam Stephens and Dr Clare Tower (2012-2015).
Ruhul Choudhury, PhD student "The cellular mechanisms of leukocyte-mediated decidual vascular remodelling" Co-supervised with Dr Rebecca Jones and Prof. John Aplin (2014-2017).
Sam Clark, PhD student "Synthetic biology of peptides" Co-supervised with Dr Curtis Dobson and Dr Chris Knight (2014-2017).
Ammar Mohammed, PhD student "Assessment of novel drugs for treating pre-term labour using a translational model" Co-supervised with Dr D Fischer and Prof. K Marshall (2015-2018).
Maitham Bahman, PhD student "Nanoparticles for delivery of vasodilators" Co-supervised with Dr C Hunter and Dr M Wareing (2015-2018).
Abobakr Abdel Rehim, "Creating synthetic membranes using tail anchored protein chimeras" PhD student
Frances Beards, Excellent technical support
Internal and external collaborators:
Professor John Aplin, Professor Melissa Westwood, Dr Rebecca Jones
Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre, School of Medical and Human Sciences, University of Manchester, UK
Professor Kay Marshall, Dr Christy Hunter, Prof. Nicola Tirelli
School of Pharmacy, University of Manchester
Dr Curtis Dobson, Dr Chris Knight and Professor Stephen High
Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester
Dr Karen Forbes
University of Leeds
Professor Erkki Ruoslahti
Sanford Burnham Medical Research Insitiute, CA, USA
Dr Caroline Dunk and Professor Steve Lye
Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, Toronto, Canada
Cell and tissue culture; primary cell isolation; microdissection; immunohistochemistry; proliferation, viability and apoptosis assays; cell cycle analysis; protease activity assays; ELISA; flow cytometry; pressure myography; fluorescence, timelapse and confocal microscopy; RNA interference; immunoprecipitation; western blotting; qRT-PCR; LDL isolation and oxidation; HPLC; bacterial culture; phage display.
Lecturer in Pharmaceutics
Placental homing peptides and targeted drug delivery
Suboptimal development in utero remains a problem despite advances in antenatal care. Development of drugs for use in pregnancy is severely lacking as pregnant women are considered a high risk cohort. This has created a drug drought in obstetrics: the only treatments currently available are early delivery and neonatal intensive care. The ability to deliver pharmaceuticals to the materno-fetal interface offers two prospects: acute treatment to extend time in utero and offset early delivery, and intervention early in gestation to prevent later fetal pathology.
In collaboration with Prof. Erkki Ruoslahti at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, we have identified a series of "placental homing peptides" that selectively bind to the surface of the placenta and the uterine vasculature when administered intravenously. These peptides do not detrimentally affect placental development or pregnancy outcome and we are now exploiting them to create nanocarriers and nanoscale therapeutics for targeted enhancement of placental function. We believe that targeted drug delivery will reduce the risks and side effects associated with systemic administration of drugs in pregnancy, and advance the field of obstetric therapeutics.
My group is currently:
Trophoblast invasion and vascular remodelling in pregnancy
During the first twenty weeks of pregnancy, extravillous trophoblasts (EVT), an invasive subset of cells derived from the placenta, invade the wall of the uterus and remodel the uterine spiral arteries. This process causes the arteries to become permanently dilated structures and ensures that blood is delivered to developing placenta at an optimal rate. Leukocytes called uterine natural killer (uNK) cells are observed in close association with the spiral arteries, prior to the arrival of EVT and also contribute the vascular remodelling process.
We have shown that uNK cells play a role in priming the spiral arteries to aid subsequent colonization by EVT and are now investigating their function in more detail, including:
Novel therapeutics for prevention of pre-term labour
Understanding the processes that control onset of labour is critical for the design of effective therapeutics to prevent preterm labour. We are:
Lecturer - MPharm, Year 2: The Medicine
Academic advisor - MPharm, Year 1
PEP tutor - Medicine, Year 1
Supervisor of final year Life Sciences laboratory research projects
Supervisor of 4th year MPharm research projects
Research Project Lead - Clinical Pharmaceutical Science STP & PTQA
Member of the Degree Board, MRes Maternal and Fetal Health
Pastoral advisor, MRes Maternal and Fetal Health
MHS PGR Training Workshop Lead
Supervision of MRes and PhD research projects