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Courtney Hanna/Vicen Perez-Garcia incubator fund project summary

Developing an in vitro system to study epigenetics in early human placental trophoblast cells

Project leads: Dr Courtney Hanna (CTR/Babraham Institute) and Dr Vicente Perez-Garcia (CTR/PDN)

Funding round: 2020–2021

Funding awarded: £5,000

Epigenetic marks are modifications to DNA or associated histone proteins that enables regions of the genome to be active or repressed. Epigenetic marks essential for cell identity and differentiation are established during early development. Despite being well-studied in the embryo, how these processes direct placental development in human pregnancy is still poorly understood. We propose to develop and validate an in vitro organoid system to model the epigenetic landscape in multipotent human placental trophoblast cells. Specifically, we will generate and analyze whole genome bisulphite-sequencing libraries from human trophoblast stem cells to determine which culture conditions best re-capitulate the characteristic DNA methylation patterns seen in the human placenta. This work will provide an important foundation for the study of early human placentation.



Courtney Hanna is a Next Generation Fellow at the Centre for Trophoblast Research, based at the Babraham Institute. Her research focuses on the mechanisms of epigenetic inheritance and gene regulation in the developing placenta. More recently, she has begun investigating the establishment of the unusual epigenetic landscape in placental development. 



Vicente Perez-Garcia is a Next Generation Fellow at the Centre for Trophoblast Research, based in the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience. He is interested in deciphering the common molecular mechanisms shared between trophoblast and cancer cells by usingCRISPR/Cas9 genome editing systems to genetically manipulate trophoblast stem cells and organoids and study the role of tumour suppressor genes in regulating trophoblast differentiation and invasiveness.