Dr Michelle Desforges PhD

Research Associate

Full contact details
View graph of relations

Research interests

My past research within the Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre has mainly focussed on placental function with a particular emphasis on nutrient transfer. Recent research has highlighted alterations to placental transport of the amino acid taurine in the pregnancy complications of fetal growth restriction (FGR) and pre-eclampsia (PE). Furthermore, placental taurine transport is reduced in maternal obesity which is a risk factor for development of FGR and PE during pregnancy. Taurine is an unusual amino acid in that it is not metabolized nor incorporated into cellular proteins, suggesting that it could be important for cellular cytosolic function. Taurine is an osmolyte and in many cell types regulation of cellular hydration state is essential for proliferation, differentiation, apoptosis, and hormone secretion. Each of these processes are vital for normal placental development and function and therefore successful pregnancy outcome. Taurine is also an antioxidant and protects against inappropriate apoptosis, ischaemia/reperfusion, oxidative stress and cytokines. Normal pregnancy is a state of oxidative stress, which is heightened in PE and maternal obesity. The mechanism by which taurine exerts its cytoprotective effect and how this amino acid modulates oxidative stress has been enigmatic. Not only is taurine incapable of functioning as a classical free radical scavenger, but there is no concrete evidence that it upregulates the antioxidant defences of the cell. My current programme of research aims to elucidate the role of taurine in human placenta and determine the consequences of placental taurine deficiency for placental development and function.

Methodological knowledge

Techniques used in the laboratory include:

  • isolation of primary human cells & tissue, mammalian cell culture
  • placental villous explant culture (human tissue)
  • placental microvillous membrane preparation, placental perfusion
  • amino acid transporter assays
  • high resolution respirometry
  • differentiation and apoptosis assays
  • ELISAs
  • protein detection (Western blotting) and measurement
  • immunohistochemistry
  • confocal microscopy
  • general molecular biology
  • conventional and quantitative RT-PCR
  • RNA interference technologies
  • competent use of recombinant adenoviruses


Research and projects

No current projects are available for public display