2023 SRI Innovation grant

Pictured: Dr Ellen Menkhorst

Congratulations to Dr Ellen Menkhorst who was recently awarded the 2023-2024 SRI/Bayer Discovery/Innovation grant for the project 'Uncovering the early pregnancy placental changes that drive term preeclampsia'.

Preeclampsia is a life-threatening, pregnancy-induced disorder unique to humans. If left unmanaged, preeclampsia can lead to maternal organ failure and death. Despite the severe consequences of preeclampsia for both the mother and child, our ability to prevent or treat term preeclampsia (onset >37 weeks gestation) remains poor. In part, this is due to our limited understanding of the underlying cause of late-onset preeclampsia. This project will combine our rare early pregnancy placental clinical biopsies with cutting edge ‘spatial transcriptomics’ technology to comprehensively characterize the gene expression of individual cell types in placentas from pregnancies that went on to develop preeclampsia and compare these to healthy pregnancies. This study will identify precisely how the placenta is damaged prior to the onset of the clinical symptoms of preeclampsia and identify new placental factors which can be used as biomarkers of placental damage or therapeutic targets to prevent the onset of preeclampsia.

Dr Ellen Menkhorst is a mid-career Research Fellow in Reproductive Biology within the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Melbourne.

More information about the SRI and Bayer Discovery/Innovation Grant can be found here.