The Role of Integrin-Linked Kinase in Human Trophoblast Differentiation
The placenta is the bridge between mother and developing fetus needed to maintain a pregnancy. The fetal component of the placenta is comprised of cells termed trophoblasts and the proper development of these cells is crucial for the health of the baby and mother. This is exemplified in diseases during pregnancy such as preeclampsia, marked by impaired invasion or burrowing of the placenta into the mother's uterus resulting in pregnancy-induced hypertension, which can result from improper trophoblast development. The incidence of this particular disease has been found to be higher in specific regions of the island of Newfoundland compared to other regions of the country. Unfortunately, we still do not properly understand how placental trophoblast develop, thus hindering the prevention of such dangerous diseases. We have previously demonstrated that a protein named integrin-linked kinase (ILK) is found in trophoblast cells throughout the first trimester of human pregnancy and that it regulates trophoblast cell movement. This protein can act as a 'scaffold' for the binding of other important proteins forming a communication node for chemical signaling within the placental cells. We hypothesize that this scaffold regulates 1) the development of invasive human trophoblast and 2) trophoblast fusion into a key placental tissue layer (syncytiotrophoblast) that is bathed in maternal blood and allows exchange of key substances, such as oxygen and nutrients, between mother and baby. Our laboratory will define the role of ILK in these two pathways of development and the chemical signaling involved with ILK in these processes. Lastly, using mice as a research tool and model for the structurally similar human placenta, we will determine whether ILK is necessary for placental trophoblast development in mice by genetic manipulation. Overall, our research findings will help identify the origin, in whole or in part, of some pregnancy-associated diseases thought to result from abnormal trophoblast development.
30 Nov -0001
Strategic Research Theme
Well-being, Health and Biomedical Discovery