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Personal profile

Overview

I am a lecturer in Maternal and Fetal Health having recently completed my MRC Career Development Award Fellowship. My research is focused upon stillbirth and fetal growth retsriction and attempts to understand the placental mechanisms that underpin these complications of pregnancy. Specifically, my research attempts to:

- understand the role of fetal-placental interactions and their contribution to Fetal Growth Restriction

- determine how placental function is altered in higher-risk populations including women of advanced maternal age

- identify and test candidate therapies for Fetal Growth Restriction.

I am the programme director for MRes Reproduction and Pregnancy (https://www.manchester.ac.uk/study/masters/courses/list/10058/mres-reproduction-and-pregnancy/), the consortium lead for the MRes Clinical Science PGT programmes and I currently supervise PhD students with Dr Susan Greenwood, Dr Michelle Desforges, Prof Alexander Heazell and Dr Lynda Harris. 

Biography

Mark Dilworth undertook his PhD in the Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester, focusing on renal physiology and how the transplantation of developing kidneys (metanephroi) may act as a possible intervention in renal failure. This PhD was part funded by a CASE award, which resulted in him spending a substantial period of time with an industrial partner, Intercytex Ltd. This link to industry built upon previous experience at GlaxoSmithKline, Hertfordshire where he spent a year as part of his BSc undergraduate degree. As part of his PhD, Mark also spent time in Aarhus, Denmark under the guidance of Professor Jens Nyengaard where he developed skills in stereological approaches.

Following discussions at a Physiological Society meeting with members of the Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre, University of Manchester, Mark developed an interest in the physiology of pregnancy and eventually moved there as a post-doctoral fellow under the supervision of Professor Colin Sibley. Here, Mark developed a passion for translational research investigating causes and treatments for Fetal Growth Restriction, a major contributor to stillbirth and childhood and adulthood diseases. This work has resulted in him spending time at the University of Alberta, Canada (in the lab of Prof Sandra Davidge) and in him publishing several papers, including one in PNAS (2010) which stoked an interest into the role of fetal nutrient demand and the failure of the placenta to adapt to these fetal signals as a causative factor in FGR.

In 2013, Mark was awarded a prestigious MRC Career Development Award Fellowship which he began in September 2013. The title of his Fellowship is 'Fetal Growth Restriction: A Failure of Placental Adaptation In Response to Fetal Nutrient Demand?' and will fund Mark and a postdoctoral research associate for a 5 year period. Mark has continued to secure research funding and specialises in improved understanding of the mechanisms underpinning placental dysfunction in Fetal Growth Restriction and Stillbirth. He has a considerable reputation in the use of pre-clinical models to assess candidate therapies for these complications of pregnancy.

In 2018, Mark was appointed as lecturer in Maternal and Fetal Health and became programme director for the MRes in Reproduction and Pregnancy course. He became consortium lead for the MRes Clinical Sciences programmes in 2019.

Research interests

The placenta is essential for transferring nutrients from mother to fetus. When this transfer is inadequate it can lead to poor growth of the fetus in the womb and a baby of low birth weight (fetal growth restriction, FGR). Such babies are at much greater risk of stillbirth and childhood and adulthood morbidities. Babies that are small for gestational age have been shown to have a higher incidence of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases later in life, demonstrating that poor growth in utero can have lifelong consequences. There are currently no treatments for poorly growing fetuses, other than early delivery. In order to rectify this we need to understand more about the way that transfer across the placenta is controlled and also investigate models of FGR/stillbirth in which we can test therapeutic strategies in the future. I am particularly interested in the role of fetal-placental signalling and how these interactions may fail in FGR, and also the placental mechanisms underpinning the increased risk of FGR and stillbirth in advanced maternal age.

Teaching

- Programme Director for MRes Reproduction and Pregnancy course

- Unit lead for of MEDN65522 MRes Masterclass in Reproduction & Pregnancy unit and MEDN66100 tutorial unit

- Supervisor for MRes (Reproduction & Pregnancy) Research projects MEDN66121 

- Lecturer on BIOL31561 Human Reproductive Biology

- Supervisor for undergraduate final year SBS projects BIOL30030 and APEP supervision (Medical students)

- Main supervisor for a PhD students with Dr Susan Greenwood and Dr Michelle Desforges focused on the mechanisms underpinning reduced placental nutrient transport in fetal growth restriction.

- Main supervisor for a PhD student with Dr Michelle Desforges and Prof Alexander Heazell focused upon placental and metabolic dysfunction in advanced maternal age.

- Co-supervisor for a PhD student with Prof Alexander Heazell and Dr Lynda Harris. This project focuses on the effect of advanced maternal age on pregnancy outcomes.

 

 

My collaborations

 

University of Manchester

Prof Colin Sibley

Dr Sue Greenwood

Prof Alexander Heazell

Dr Michelle Desforges

Dr Elizabeth Cottrell

Dr Lynda Harris

Dr Jenny Myers

Prof Edward Johnstone

Dr Richard Unwin

Prof Adrian Woolf

 

External

Dr Miguel Constancia (University of Cambridge, UK)

Dr Natalie Hannan (University of Melbourne, Australia)

Prof Steven Tong (University of Melbourne, Australia)

 

 

Current lab members:

Turki Alharti (PhD student- Main supervisor)

Xiaojia Li (PhD student- Main supervisor)

Jessica Dalton-O'Reilly (PhD student- Co-supervisor)

Stacey Lee (PhD student- Co-supervisor)

 

 

 

Memberships of committees and professional bodies

European Placenta Group

International Federation of Placental Associations

The Physiological Society

Methodological knowledge

-  In vivo placental transport across the placenta (including clearance of radio-labelled tracers)

- Placental explant studies and radiolabelled estimates of placental transport

- Western blotting

- Immunohistochemistry

- qPCR and RT-PCR

Qualifications

BSc (Hons) Biology with Industrial Experience. University of Manchester, 2003.

PhD Physiology. University of Manchester, 2007.  

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 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation

Education/Academic qualification

Fellow of the Higher Education Authority, The Higher Education Academy

Award Date: 10 Jul 2019

Doctor of Medicine, PhD Physiology , The University of Manchester

20 Sep 200328 Feb 2007

Award Date: 28 Feb 2007

Bachelor of Science, BSc (Honours) Biology with Industrial Experience, The University of Manchester

30 Sep 199930 Jun 2003

Award Date: 30 Jun 2003

External positions

Council member, European Placenta Group

20212025

Member of the International Scientific Committee , International Federation of Placenta Associations (IFPA)

1 Sep 2019 → …

Chair of the Elsevier Trophoblast Research Committee, International Federation of Placenta Associations (IFPA)

1 Jun 2017 → …

Areas of expertise

  • RG Gynecology and obstetrics

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Lydia Becker Institute

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  • MRC Career Development Research Fellow

    Dilworth, Mark (Recipient), 2013

    Prize: Fellowship awarded competitively