Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Grant 2022

Congratulations to Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology researcher Professor Tu’uhevaha Kaitu’u-Lino for leading a successful ARC Discovery Grant (2022 funding) “Is SPINT1 a key regulator of placental development”.  The Discovery Project has been funded from 2022-2024, with $536,000 awarded to fund this important research.

The placenta is a unique and transient organ that is essential for mammalian reproduction, acting as a life-support system for the growing embryo/fetus.  SPINT1 is a molecule found in very high levels within the placenta. Professor Kaitu’u-Lino, Dr Teresa MacDonald, Professor Sue Walker, Professor Stephen Tong and team have recently demonstrated that SPINT1 is reduced in pregnancies complicated by poor fetal growth and may represent an important biomarker that could be used to identify patients who are at the greatest risk of stillbirth; work that is ongoing within the team.

This new grant represents an exciting opportunity for Professor Kaitu’u-Lino, in collaboration with Professor Natalie Hannan (CIB also within the Dept of O&G), Dr David Simmons (University of Queensland, CIC) and Dr Beth Allison (Monash University, CID) to unravel the fundamental biology of SPINT1 in placental development and maturation  The team will study SPINT1 in human, mouse, lizard, cow and sheep placenta to provide a deeper understanding around whether this molecule is conserved across several species with divergent placental architectures; work that will form a significant part of Ms Ciara Murphy’s PhD studies.

A deeper understanding of SPINT1’s role and regulation within diverse placental species may lead to future applied projects utilising SPINT1 mimetics and inhibitors to promote or protect fetal growth - this could be applicable to any species where placental support is imperative for successful reproduction and offspring health.

We applaud Tu’uhe and Natalie on this great success.