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Personal profile

Research interests

Normal development and function of the placenta is absolutely critical in achieving a successful pregnancy, for normal fetal growth depends directly on the transfer of nutrients from mother to baby via this organ.  Currently, there are no treatments for cases of altered fetal growth, and in order to make significant progress in this area a better understanding of the mechanisms regulating placental growth is needed.

We have evidence that growth factors and microRNAs are important mediators of normal placental development.  My research is now focused on:

  • Investigating the role of microRNAs within the human placenta
  • Identifying novel microRNAs within growth factor signalling cascades 
  • Understanding how placental microRNA profiles and growth factor signalling pathways are altered in pregnancies complicated by maternal diabetes
  • Examining the interaction between the maternal environment (eg. diet) and placental microRNA expression


My collaborations

Research Staff:

Dr Rachel Quilang (University of Leeds)

Dr Naomi Clement-Obstetrics & Gynaecology Academic Clinical Fellow (University of Leeds)

 Postgraduate Research Students:

Zhiyong Zou

Manon Owen- BHF 4 year PhD student (co-supervised with Professor Eleanor Scott, University of Leeds)

Fatima Al Ali-PhD student (co-supervised with Professor Eleanor Scott and Dr Nigel Simpson)

Abigail Byford-BHF 4 year PhD student (co-supervised with Professor Eleanor Scott and Dr Nigel Simpson)

Dr Sarah Cartland - MD Student/Clinical Research Fellow, University of Leeds (co-supervised with Professor Eleanor Scott and Dr Nigel Simpson, University of Leeds)

Jessica Edge- BBSRC DTP PhD student (co-supervised with Dr Niamh Forde and Dr Mary O’Connell, University of Leeds)

Margeurite Kennedy- PhD Student (co-supervised with Professor Eleanor Scott and Dr Nigel Simpson, University of Leeds

Haidee Tinning- PhD Student (co-supervised with Dr Niamh Forde, University of Leeds)

Christopher Trevelyan- BHF funded PhD Student (co-supervised with Dr Neil Turner)



Kate Timms-PhD Student (2014-2018) "Examining the potential roles of food-derived plant microRNAs in human placental development". Co-supervised with Professor's Melissa Westwood, John McLaughlin and Dr Anil Day. Funded by a BBSRC DTP Studentship.

Bernadette Baker- PhD student (2012-2015). "Folate deficiency in teenage pregnancy: Involvement in placental dysfunction." Co-supervised with Dr Rebecca Jones, Dr Susan Greenwood and Professor Alexander Heazell.

Christopher Whittle- PhD student (2011-2014). "Altering microRNAs to regulate placental development in pregnancies complicated by maternal diabetes." Co-supervised with Professor Melissa Westwood and Professor John Aplin.

Lisa Jones - MRes student (2012-2013)  "Therapeutiically targeting miRNAs to improve pregnancy outcomes" Co-supervised with Dr Jayne Charnock.

Miranda Lees -MRes student (2012-2013). "miRNA regulation of embryo implantation" Co-supervised with Professor John Aplin.

Kate Timms - MRes student (2012-2013). "Does maternal diet influence placental miRNA expression?" Co-supervised with Prof  Melissa Westwood

Joshua Jones - MRes student (2011-2012). " Profiling serum microRNAs to predict adverse outcomes." Co-supervised with Prof Melissa Westwood.

Farkhondeh Farrokhnia- MRes student (2010-2011) "Identifying miRNAs involved in regulating placental growth factor signalling"  Co-supervised with Prof Melissa Westwood



University of Manchester 

Prof Melissa Westwood

Prof Alex Heazell

Dr Lynda Harris

Dr Rebecca Jones

Dr Anil Day

Prof John McLaughlin



University of Leeds

Prof Eleanor Scott

Dr Nigel Simpson

Dr Niamh Forde

Dr Virginia Pensebane

Dr Rebecca Spencer


University of Cambridge

Prof Susan Ozanne

Dr Laura Kusinski


Imperial College London

Dr Beth Holder



Memberships of committees and professional bodies

UK Society for Extracellular Vesicles

Society for Reproduction and Fertility

The Genetics Society

International Federadion of Placenta Associations

The Society for Endocrinology

The Endocrine Society

The Anatomical Society


PhD Physiology & Pharmacology, University of Strathclyde (2004)

BSc (Hons) Immunology & Pharmacology, University of Strathclyde (2001)

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

External positions

Associate Professor of Molecular Endocrinology and Reproduction, University of Leeds

Jun 2020 → …

External Examiner for BSc(Hons) Human Biology , Edge Hill University

Sep 2016Jun 2020

Lecturer, University of Leeds

1 Oct 2014Jun 2020

Areas of expertise

  • Q Science (General)
  • Reproductive biology
  • Extracellular vesicles
  • non-coding RNA
  • Placenta
  • Endocrinology
  • Molecular biology
  • Diabetes
  • Pregnancy


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