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Project 173004

Title: Trophoblast and extra embryonic fetal cells: plasticity, differentiation factors and in vitro modulation of functional characheristics (2011-) 
Funding: Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development of the Republic of Serbia
Realization by: Institute for the Application of Nuclear Energy, University of Belgrade
Project leader: Ljiljana Vićovac Panić, PhD, Principal Research Fellow, INEP

Subject and description: Modern society is still facing a difficulty to conceive and pregnancy complications as issues hard to control. Considerable progress has been made in placental biology which spans multiple disciplines, all involving an understanding of the trophoblast cell lineage, a unique cell type that interfaces with the maternal tissues. Trophoblast sub-populations play key roles in placental development and function. In the human trophoblast is highly invasive, reaching and modifying the maternal arteries in order to secure a blood supply to the placenta.  This process poses immunological challenges, and cellular mechanisms contributing to survival of genetically different fetus within maternal uterus are still not well understood. Many common complications of pregnancy are rooted in defects in trophoblast invasion during early pregnancy, and the ensuing compromise in maternal blood flow to the placenta.
For that reason influence of specific molecules (of fetal, maternal, or environmental origin) on trophoblast cell migration and invasion, considered to play a pivotal role in establishment and maintenance of pregnancy, is investigated through this project. We are focusing on several groups of molecules which have a potential to act on invasive trophoblast cells, such as cytokines, small secreted proteins released by cells that have a specific effect on the interactions and communications between cells. At the feto-maternal interface multiple cell types are present with their cell type and cell condition specific cytokine repertoire. Within this project specific attention is paid to MIF (microphage migration inhibitory factor) and prolactin, as cytokines present within uterus. Some systemic conditions as autoimmune processes are characterized by immunoglobulins with potential to influence trophoblast, thus anti-phospholipid antibodies are also studied here. The third group of molecules comprises galectin family members as proteins with lectin activity capable to interact with a wide range of glycoconjugates. Their interactions have a huge potential to alter extracellular architecture, cellular meshwork, and cell membrane proteins inducing intracellular signals defining cell fate. This has been studied through this project for galectin-1 and galectin-3 and trophoblast cells.

Research team:
Ljiljana Vićovac Panić, PhD, Molecular Biologist, Principal Research Fellow
Žanka Bojić-Trbojević, PhD, Senior Research Associate

Milica Jovanović Krivokuća, PhD, Research Associate
Ivana Stefanoska, PhD, Research Associate
Danica Ćujić, PhD, Research Associate
Ivana Aćimović, PhD, Research Assistant
Aleksandra Vilotić, Biologist, Research Assistant