Monday, 27 February 2017

World-first discovery in placental research receives Ferring Innovation Grant

Dr Padma Murthi
School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health (SCS) researcher Dr Padma Murthi has been awarded a highly competitive Ferring Innovation Grant for her research investigating therapeutics to treat placental function in preeclampsia.

The Ferring Pharmaceuticals grant worth US$96,000 will enable Dr Murthi to investigate the role of novel peptides as an effective target to improve placental function.

Often seen in first-time pregnancies and in women over forty, preeclampia (PE) affects 5% to 10% of all pregnancies globally.

“PE is caused by a functionally insufficient placenta, and severe PE is associated with a placenta that doesn’t develop properly, preventing the developing fetus from receiving enough oxygen, blood and nutrients,” said Dr Murthi, senior research fellow in the Department of Medicine.

“There are no therapies to improve placental function and fetal growth in utero, and advances in the prevention of PE have been hampered by our inadequate understanding of the critical regulators of placental function largely due to the lack of appropriate model systems.”

Led by Dr Murthi, the Monash research group is the first in the world to discover a placental growth control receptor (known as FPR2) is involved in improving placental blood flow to the developing fetus.

Dr Murthi said her group has developed innovative tools, including appropriate in vitro, ex-vivo and in-vivo model systems to demonstrate the usefulness of FPR2 as a therapeutic target to improve placental vascular functions in preeclampsia.

“FPR2 has significant therapeutic implications given that clinical trials for drugs targeting FPR2 in inflammatory diseases have already been tested for safety and tolerability in humans,” said Dr Murthi.

“The outcomes of this study have the potential to improve placental growth and function in preeclampsia, one of the major clinical disorders of contemporary perinatal medicine.” 

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