York professors awarded $2.7M in health research funding

Peng, in the Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, will receive $715,275 over five years to study “MicroRNA-218s and their regulated signaling networks in placental development and preeclampsia“.

Preeclampsia (PE) is a major disorder of human pregnancy, characterized by high blood pressure and presence of proteins in the urine. It is the leading cause of maternal death and still birth, and also affects the health of mothers and children later in their lives.

The cause of PE is not well understood; however, Peng’s research has discovered that microRNA-218 (niR-218) levels are lower in placentas of PE patients than those of healthy women, and that miR-218 regulates various activities in placental cells.

These novel findings suggest that miR-218 plays important roles in maintaining the proper development of the placenta and that insufficient production of miR-218 in the placenta contributes to the development of PE.

The major objectives of this grant are to further investigate the role of miR-218 in placenta development; to identify which key molecules are regulated by miR-218; and to determine how abnormal production of miR-218 may lead to PE.

Peng will use placental cells, placental organ culture and placenta/uterus co-culture systems, as well as endothelial cells, to study the functions of miR-218 and the key molecules regulated by miR-218. Findings from the proposed studies will improve the understanding of PE and may reveal novel diagnostic and therapeutic targets for this disorder

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