Personal profile


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 MSc Reproduction and Pregnancy (Research) and Deputy Head for the Division of Developmental Biology and Medicine. 


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 MSc in Reproduction and Pregnancy (Pregnancy). He became Deputy Head of the Division of Developmental Biology and Medicine in 2022.

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.


- Programme Director for MSc Reproduction and Pregnancy (Research)

- Unit lead for MEDN65522 MSc Masterclass in Reproduction & Pregnancy unit

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

- Lecturer on BIOL31561 Human Reproductive Biology

- Lecturer for Year 1 MBChB 'life cycle' units

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

- Main supervisor for a PhD student 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.

- Main supervisor for an MRC dTP PhD student with Dr Michelle Desforges, Prof Alexander Heazell and Dr Susan Greenwood focus on therapies for placental dysfunction in advanced maternal age.

- Co-supervisor for a PhD student with Prof Alexander Heazell and Dr Sally Freeman focused on the inflammasome in the placenta.

- Co-supervisor for a PhD student with Prof Melissa Westwood, Prof John Aplin, Dr Peter Ruane and Dr Adam Stevens focused upon the effects of metabolic stress around the time of embryo implantation.



My collaborations


University of Manchester


Prof Alexander Heazell

Dr Sue Greenwood

Dr Michelle Desforges

Dr Elizabeth Cottrell

Dr Lynda Harris

Dr Jenny Myers

Prof Edward Johnstone

Prof Melissa Westwood

Prof John Aplin

Dr Peter Ruane

Dr Adam Stevens



Dr Miguel Constancia (University of Cambridge, UK)

Dr Natalie Hannan (University of Melbourne, Australia)

Prof Steven Tong (University of Melbourne, Australia)



Current lab members:

Cheryl Petit (Senior laboratory technician)

Xiaojia Li (PhD student- Primary supervisor)

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

Xueli Liu (PhD student- co-supervisor)

Chloe Moss (PhD student- co-supervisor)

Anna Davies (MSc student)




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


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 3 - Good Health and Well-being

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 Sept 200328 Feb 2007

Award Date: 28 Feb 2007

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

30 Sept 199930 Jun 2003

Award Date: 30 Jun 2003

External positions

Council member, European Placenta Group


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

1 Sept 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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