Faculty of Science

Placental vascularity

Our overarching research goal is to understand how variation in placental vascularisation impacts on fetal growth and development, and the ramifications this has for adult health outcomes.

  1. Summary of the project
  2. Eligibility criteria
  3. Readings
  4. Contact the research team
  5. How to apply
  6. Scholarships

Summary of the project

The development of metabolic and neuropsychiatric disease has been linked to poor nutrition and stress during pregnancy and is also associated with intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). With the placenta being the primary interface between mother and fetus, adequate placental development and function is critical for optimal fetal development.

Failure of the placenta to adequately supply the fetus results in IUGR, affecting up to 5–10% of pregnancies in developed countries. Establishing therapies to enhance placental vascular development in compromised pregnancies will enhance immediate fetal development but also has the potential to mitigate adverse health outcomes in later life.

In our laboratory we have been using rodent models of IUGR to establish how alteration in placental vascularity impacts on fetal organ development and the onset of adverse health outcomes in later life. We have recently focused on establishing 3D images of placental vascular networks and want to further expand our understanding of placental function by also using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Running alongside this is an interest in how fetal tissues are developing and the long term metabolic and neuropsychiatric health outcomes of these offspring as adults.

We are now developing therapeutic interventions targeted to enhance placental vascular development. How will this impact on placental function, fetal development and long-term health outcomes? This is the key question of interest in our laboratory and will ultimately highlight the exciting potential of the placenta as a therapeutic target. 

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Eligibility criteria

General UWA PhD entrance requirements can be found on the Future Students website.

Requirement specific to this project:

  • The specific areas of expertise are open but should fit into the general theme. Topics of interest include reproductive biology, vascular development and physiology.
  • Expertise working with rodents would be viewed positively.

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Contact the research team leader

Once you have ensured that you meet the eligibility criteria and are ready to discuss a proposal, contact the research team leader to identify a potential supervisor.
Research team leader: Dr Caitlin Wyrwoll
I completed my PhD at UWA before moving to The University of Edinburgh. I am now a lecturer at the School of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology, UWA. I investigate how the environment in pregnancy impacts on placental and fetal development and the associated long-term health outcomes of the offspring.

This project is hosted by the School of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology. Research team leader Dr Caitlin Wyrwoll is working in collaboration with a group of academic staff, including Dr Kirk Feindel in the Centre for Microscopy, Characterisation and Analysis.


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How to apply

After you have discussed your project with the research team leader you should be in a position to proceed to step two of the UWA application process: 'Lodge an application'.

Different procedures apply to domestic and international students.

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Domestic students

All domestic students may apply for Research Training Program and University Postgraduate Awards (UPA) scholarships.

The Australian Government's Endeavour Awards and Scholarships are available to Australian applicants for study in participating countries and regions.

International students

A range of scholarships are available from international organisations and governments. The full list, organised by country, is available on the Future Students website.

In addition, all international students may apply for International Research Training Program scholarships.

The Australian Government's Endeavour Awards and Scholarships are available to international applicants from participating countries and regions.

Indigenous students

Indigenous students are encouraged to apply for Indigenous Postgraduate Research Supplementary Scholarships.

Forrest Foundation scholarships

All international and Australian students who wish to study towards the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at The University of Western Australia may apply for Forrest Scholarships.

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