Particles@Barriers lab

Department Materials meet Life, Empa, St.Gallen, Switzerland

Empa – Particles-Biology Interactions – Particlesatbarrier

Main placenta-related topics:

The aim of our group is to discover the fundamentals of (nano)particles-biobarrierinteractions (lung, intestine and the placenta). In particular, we are interested in the correlation of physicochemical particle properties with barrier uptake and translocation and their biological effects. To achieve results of high predictive value, we develop and employadvanced human in vitro and ex vivo models (ex vivo placenta perfusion, co-culture transfer model, 3D microtissues, microphysiolgical co-culture model). Our research is pivotal for the safe design and use of nanomaterials in industrial, commercial and medical applications and the protection of vulnerable populations. 

Principal Investigator

• Tina Buerki-Thurnherr, PhD 

PhD students & Postdocs

• •Battuja Dugershaw-Kurzer

• Lea Furer


• Yvette Hannig

Techniques & Technologies:

Ex vivo placenta perfusion, placental explants, primary cells, co-culture organoids, co-culture transfer models•Nanosafety and nanomedicine in pregnancy

• Placental translocation of nanomaterials

• Identification of SARs (structure activity relationships) and toxicity mechanisms of nanomaterials

• Nanoparticle characterization

Up-coming European meetings

GFP meeting

It is our pleasure to invite you to the 2021 meeting of the “Groupe de la francophonie placentaire” (GfP) which, due to ongoing coronavirus restrictions, will be held in the hybrid mode (online and on-site) this year! 

The 8th GfP meeting will take place from Monday, September 6th to Tuesday, September 7, 2021 in Nantes. 

This year, with the theme « Ma mother, my Placenta and me » and in the continuity of previous meetings, this meeting aims to encourage research on the placenta and associated obstetrical conditions, to facilitate international French-speaking collaborations, and scientific and methodological exchanges in our field. 

The conference is open to researchers, teachers, students and clinicians. The invited speakers are specialists in placenta coming from various backgrounds (immunologists, geneticists, physiologists, obstetricians, biochemists, pathologists, toxicologists…). The meeting is organized to allow all participants to present their research project and to discuss allowing a special Tribune for young investigators. 

The meeting is free but needs registration on the website


Welcome to all! 

Comité organisateur : Véronique Ferchaud-Roucher

Comité fondateur du GfP : Cathy Vaillancourt, Marie Cohen, Thierry Fournier

The language of the meeting is French.

IFPA-EPG president and EPG-Placenta editor

alphabetic order

Pascale Chavatte-Palmer

Pascale Chavatte-Palmer graduated as DVM in France in 1989 and specialized in animal reproduction in UK, USA and France, with a research focus in placental and perinatal development in horses. In 1999, she joined the Biology of Development and Reproduction (BDR) research unit at INRA in France and studied feto-placental and postnatal consequences of cloning and embryo technologies in cattle. In 2006, she started to develop biomedical and veterinary models for studying the developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD), with an emphasis on placental function. Her group, now led by Anne Couturier-Tarrade, studies the programming effects of nutritional challenges, metabolic imbalance, embryo technologies and exposure to airborne and/or food pollutants, taking advantage of access to a large number of species, including horses, rabbits, cattle and small ruminants, and developing multidisciplinary approaches. In 2020, she became director of the new Biology of Reproduction, Environment, Epigenetics and Development (BREED) INRAE research unit (succeeding to BDR unit), that gathers expertise in animal and human reproduction and development with about 90 staff members.

Pascale is a member of EPG since 2014. She was on the scientific committee for the Paris meeting in 2014 and is currently the temporary president of the European Placenta Group (EPG). She is also a founding member of the French speaking society for DOHAD (SF-DOHAD), she was president of the International Society for Embryo Technologies from 2018 to 2020 and she presides the French society for the Study of Fertility (SFEF). She has co-authored > 100 original articles and >50 reviews in peer-reviewed journals. 

Her CV and articles can be found here

Placenta editor

Udo Markert

Udo Markert is Professor and Head of the Placenta Laboratory at the University Hospital Jena, Germany. He is President of the European Society for Reproductive Immunology (ESRI; 2019-2022) and the current interim Secretary General of the European Placenta Group (EPG). He has been President of the American Society for Reproductive Immunology (ASRI) 2012-2014, and has served for its Council for 8 years. He has been Councillor also of the International Society for Immunology of Reproduction (ISIR) and ESRI. He has received several awards including the “German Innovation Award Medical Engineering” (2008), the “John Christian Herr Award” of the ASRI (2009) and the American Journal of Reproductive Immunology (AJRI) Award (2016). Udo Markert is Organizer and Chair of the upcoming IFPA congress 2024 in Germany and has organized and co-organized several international conferences, such as the triannual ISIR congress 2016 in Erfurt, Germany, and the joint ASRI and ESRI congress 2012 in Hamburg, Germany. He is Associate Editor of the AJRI and member of further Editorial Boards in other journals of the field. He was member of the Editorial Board of Placenta and is Special Issue Editor of Placenta (Ex vivo human placenta perfusion) and other journals. He is visiting professor at the Chongqing Medical University, China. Udo Markert’s main research topics are trophoblast and placenta functions, endometrium and ovaries, mostly wth special regard to immunology. He has published 157 pubmed cited papers, has reached an H index of 31 and has supervised 115 master and doctoral theses.

EPG Council 2021

Sally Collins

Prof. Sally L. Collins is a Consultant Obstetrician subspecializing in Feto-Maternal Medicine at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, an Associate Professor in the Nuffield Department of Women’s and Reproductive Health, University of Oxford and the Medical lead for Women’s health for Perspectum Ltd.

Sally graduated in Medicine from the University of Oxford and specialized in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, training within the Oxford region during which time she completed a PhD in Obstetric Ultrasound. Sally is currently a Consultant Obstetrician in a busy NHS Trust and has set up the Oxford FMU tertiary referral Placenta Clinic. 

She is highly research active having authored over 100 journal articles, filed two patents and won several international research awards. She currently holds a grant from the NIHR AI in Health and Care awards to develop a fully automated first trimester ultrasound screening tool for fetal growth restriction. Using machine learning techniques her team pioneered the first fully automated method for estimating placental morphology and vascularity from a 3D ultrasound image. It is hoped that this will form the basis of a first trimester multifactorial screening test for adverse pregnancy outcomes such as fetal growth restriction and pre-eclampsia.

Sally is also world renown for her expertise in placenta accreta spectrum (PAS) disorder and is currently working with NHS England to develop a national network for the diagnosis and management of PAS having co-authored the RCOG and FIGO guidelines on diagnosis and management of PAS. She is a UK representative to, and elected Vice-Chairperson of, the International Society for PAS and is the lead author on their recent evidence-based guidelines. She is a founder member of the Oxford Placenta Accreta team ( and continues to strive to improve the outcomes for women affected by this rare, but complex and potentially lethal condition.

Anne Couturier-Tarrade

Anne Couturier-Tarradeis a senior scientist at BREED Unit (Biology of Reproduction, Epigenetic, Environment and Development) from INRAE, a research unit focusing on reproduction and DOHaD (Developmental Origins of Health and Disease). She is at the head of PEPPS team (Placenta, Environment and Programming of PhenotypeS).

She has been working in the field of DOHaD for over ten years now, focusing on the effects of maternal environment (nutrition, metabolism, pollution and nanoparticles) on the placenta, a programming agent of offspring phenotype.

She has acquired a strong expertise on several animal models including rabbit and mouse, but also on human placenta during her PhD.

She is a member of the board of DOHaD ( and a MC member substitute of the COST “Cellfit” ( Currently, she is the coordinator of two research programs related to placental function (ANR and INRAE).

Email :

Link :

Mark Dilworth

Mark Dilworth is a lecturer in Maternal and Fetal Health at the University of Manchester, UK, having previously been an MRC Career Development Award Research Fellow from 2013-2018. His PhD, focused upon renal physiology, was completed in 2007 before he then saw the light and moved to the pregnancy (and placental) field! Mark is a reproductive physiologist whose research focuses on investigating the placental causes of fetal growth restriction and stillbirth in higher-risk populations, including women of advanced maternal age. Mark also has expertise in the use of pre-clinical models, including animal models, to assess candidate therapies for placental dysfunction. Mark is passionate about bringing through the next generation of placental researchers in his roles as PhD supervisor and programme director for MRes Reproduction and Pregnancy. He also chairs the Elsevier Trophoblast Research (New Investigator) Award committee.

Sandra Haider

After receiving my BSc from the University of Applied Sciences I started my professional career at the Reproductive Biology Unit under the lead of ao Prof. Martin Knöfler. In 2010, I obtained my MSc degree in Molecular Biology at the University of Vienna, and in 2015, I received my PhD from the Medical University of Vienna. My doctoral thesis was on critical signalling pathways controlling trophoblast progenitor determination. Recently, I was given a permanent postdoc position and a 3-year professorship qualification agreement to establish independence and start my own program of research in Reproductive Biology.

My main research focus is to elucidate mechanism controlling cell fate decisions in human first trimester placentae. Of note, proliferation, differentiation and specific maturation of human epithelial and non- epithelial cells is a critical requirement for proper placentation during pregnancy and failures are associated with pregnancy disorders such as preeclampsia, intrauterine growth restriction and early abortion. So far, milestones in my career have been the discovery of Notch1 controlling extravillous trophoblast lineage formation (PNAS, 2016), the establishment of long-term expanding, 3D trophoblast organoids (Stem Cell Reports, 2018), as well as elucidating the mechanism of cilia formation in endometrial gland organoids (Endocrinology, 2019).

2020 Gabor Than Foundation Award in Placentology for 2020 – runner-up 2019 The President’s Presenter Award, Society of Reproductive Investigation (SRI), Paris, 2017 The Researcher of the Month, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
2016. The Giorgio Pardi Young Scientist Award, SRI, Montreal, Canada profiles/index.php?id=688&res=sandra_haider

Linda Harris

Dr Lynda K Harris is a Senior Lecturer at The University of Manchester UK, cross-appointed between The Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre (MFHRC) and The Division of Pharmacy and Optometry (DPO). She is currently the Research Director for DPO and a Scientific Co-Director of The MFHRC.

Lynda received a BSc in Pathobiology (1999) and a PhD in in atherosclerosis (2003) from the University of Reading, UK. She then moved to The MFHRC at The University of Manchester, where her postdoctoral research focused on understanding the mechanisms regulating human uterine spiral artery remodelling, and trophoblast invasion, proliferation and survival. In 2010, she was awarded the IFPA Gabor Than Award, as well as a 5 year BBSRC David Phillips Research Fellowship to develop targeted drug delivery systems for use in pregnancy. She spent 2011 working with Professor Erkki Ruoslahti at The Sanford Burnham Institute, UC Santa Barbara, USA to identify a series of novel placental homing peptides. Upon her return to Manchester, she used these peptides to create nanoparticles for targeted delivery of drugs to the placenta. She was appointed as a tenured Lecturer in 2015 and was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2018. Over the past 10 years, she has created a new research discipline of obstetric nanomedicine, specialising in in vitroin vivo and in silico approaches.  She has a track-record of securing grant funding, forging international collaborations and publishing in high quality journals, as well as 20 years’ experience of research supervision, and undergraduate and postgraduate teaching. 

Lynda attended her first IFPA meeting in Asilomar, USA in 2004, and has attended 13 of the 16 meetings held since. She has been a regular presenter, session chair, poster judge and session/workshop organiser, and was a member of the local organising committee for IFPA 2017 in Manchester. As such, she has significant first-hand knowledge of IFPA and The EPG, its members, the needs of early- and mid-career researchers and conference organisation.

Rohan Lewis

I have been studying the placenta for almost 25 years and have published on placental transport, metabolism, and ultrastructure, as well as placenta’s sensing of the maternal environment and its role in the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease. My work applying mathematical modelling to placental transport studies, has provided insights into the transport of amino acids, lipids, cortisol and pharmacological drugs. The application of 3D imaging to the placenta, particularly serial block-face scanning electron microscopy has provided new insights into placental structure in the human placenta and I am now applying this 3D approach to comparative placentology.

I have been an active member of the placental community since my first IFPA in 2001. I have been on the editorial board of Placenta and my contributions as a reviewer for the journal have been recognised by “Excellence in Reviewing” awards in 2014 and 2018. I have also been actively involved in the European Placental Perfusion Workshop, which I was helped organise in 2011, 2020 and 2021. As part of the European Union funded Early nutrition project and a Leverhulme Trust funded comparative placentology project I have collaborated with researchers from across Europe.

Diana Morales-Prieto

I am group leader and deputy head of the Placenta-Lab in the Department of Obstetrics, University Hospital Jena (Jena, GER).  I earned my bachelor’s degree in Chemistry at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia (Bogotá, COL) and my doctoral degree Ph.D. (Dr.rer.nat) at the Biology and Pharmacy Faculty of the Friedrich-Schiller University (Jena, GER). I was a postdoctoral fellow at the Placenta-Lab and the Department of Neurology both of the University Hospital Jena, and the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science (RNA Bioinformatics and High Throughput Analysis) of the Friedrich-Schiller-University. Currently, I am qualifying for a professorship (Habilitation) with a Venia Legendi in Experimental Obstetrics at the Faculty of Medicine, Friedrich-Schiller University (Expected completion: Autumn 2021). I have been awarded the Elsevier Trophoblast Research New Investigator Award (International Federation of Placenta Associations) and the Dr. John Gusdon Memorial New Investigator Award (American Society for Reproductive Immunology). 

Within the Placenta-Lab, I have established the “Extracellular vesicles and miRNA” group, which I have been leading for the last five years. Our research focuses on three interrelated areas of investigation: The feto-maternal communication mediated by extracellular vesicles and microRNAs. The maternal immunological adaptation and brain remodeling and how these persist after birth. And the effect of pollutants on maternal health and pregnancy outcomes.

bibliography :

Christiane Pfarrer

Christiane Pfarrer graduated as veterinarian in Germany in 1989 and joined the Anatomy Department of the Justus-Liebig-University Giessen in 1992 where she also graduated as Dr. med. vet. in the same year. She started her “placenta life” by studying placental vascularization comparatively in the group of Prof. Rudi Leiser. Several research visits to other universities (University of Copenhagen, Loma Linda University, Texas A&M University) improved her knowledge. Later she focused on histologically characterizing the feto-maternal interaction especially, but not exclusively, in bovines. This work resulted in her habilitation in 2004. From that point, she (together with her group) developed in vitro models for embryo-maternal communication in bovines. Career wise, she became Chair of Anatomy at the Institute for Anatomy (also head of Institute) of the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation in Germany. In Hannover, her group intensified the work on in vitro systems by developing 3-D models (organoids/spheroids) and started ultrastructural analysis and 3-D reconstruction of the bovine interhemal membrane and trophoblast giant cells.

Christiane is member of EPG since her first meeting in Spa, Belgium in 1995. In 2003 she co-organized the EPG/IFPA meeting in Mainz, Germany together with Rudi Leiser. Later she served in the EPG planning committee and was representative of EPG in the IFPA board, and subsequently Secretary of IFPA from 2012-2016. Besides, she is an active member of the European Association of Veterinary Anatomists (EAVA), where she served as treasurer, vice president (2016-21) and was elected president this year (2021). She has co-authored > 130 original articles in peer-reviewed journals.

Jelmer Prins 

Dr. J.R. Prins, is an obstetrician in the University Medical Center Groningen, the Netherlands. He combines clinical work in a tertiary obstetric hospital with translational research, for which he has been granted a Mandema Stipend in 2015, to be able to combine his clinical work with research. His research focuses on reproductive immunology in pregnant women and animal models of pregnancy. Within his research he mainly focuses on the role of regulatory T cells and memory T cells in pregnancy and pregnancy complications as spontaneous preterm birth and preeclampsia. The combination of a clinical and research position in obstetrics, provides a possibility for him to become a translational scientist, and will benefit the research field of reproductive immunology. 


Link to profile: and

Marie van Djik

Marie van Dijk is a group leader at the Reproductive Biology Laboratory of the Amsterdam University Medical Centers, the Netherlands. The focus of her research lies on the functional genomics and epigenetics of proper placenta and embryo development during pregnancy as this is critical for the delivery of a healthy baby. She uses human models systems (induced pluripotent stem cells, trophoblast stem cells, placental organoids and explants) to investigate these developments normally occurring in the first trimester of human pregnancy. Her main motivation for performing research into this area is to increase knowledge on how cell differentiation mechanisms work and how these affect both the health of the mother and the fetus.

Marie is chair of the upcoming IFPA 2021 meeting and ad interim treasurer of the European Placenta Group.

Research Centre for Obstetrics and Gynaecology

Main placenta-related topics:

Oslo Pregnancy Biobank has since 2001 recruited women  during pregnancy/delivery (incl. placenta and decidual tissue collection) and 1-8 years after their index pregnancy. Our long term goal is to improve maternal and fetal health, and use pregnancy findings (eg. Placenta-related biomarkers) to identify individuals at excessive risk for long-term disease. We seek to determine the mechanisms linking placental dysfunction and later female cardiovascular health problems, and to identify new targets for early prevention of CVD in young women.

Another main placenta-related  topic of the group is senescent/postterm placentas and their biomarkers.

Techniques & Technologies:
• Diagnosing uteroplacental acute athorosis (IHC)
• Microchimerism and link to atherosclerosis
• Angiogenic biomarkers

Principal Investigators
• Anne Cathrine (Annetine) Staff
• Meryam Sugulle

PhD students & Postdocs
• Daniel Pitz Jacobsen, postdoc
• Kjartan Moe, MD, PhD
• Patji Alnaes-Katjavivi, MD; PhD
• PhD students:
• Heidi E. Fjeldstad
• Sophie Bowe
• Birgitte Mitlid-Mork
• Ingrid Fosheim

• Lise Ø Levy

BREED – Biology of Reproduction, Environment, Epigenetics and Development

The BREED unit is a large research unit (>90 people) gathering researchers specializing in biomedical, veterinary and fundamental fields. It is primarily attached to the National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment (INRAE) but also to Paris-Saclay university (UPSAY), Versailles-Saint Quentin university (UVSQ), and The National Veterinary School of Alfort (ENVA). Its research focuses on the development of the mammalian embryo from the formation of the egg cell to birth and development to adulthood. Projects range from fundamental studies on the functioning of the genome during embryo and fetal growth to applied research on the effects of the environment at large on development in the agronomic, veterinary and biomedical fields. The scientific objective is to understand and control the mechanisms of epigenetic programming during prenatal life, leading to the birth of a healthy, fertile and robust individual, able to adapt to changes in his environment.

The unit is organized into 5 research teams supported by an administrative team and shared services and platforms. One team is specialised in placental research.

The Placenta, Environment and Programming of Phenonypes (PEPPS) team is particularly dedicated to placental function. It is composed of 10 permanent staff members, with expertise in placental and animal physiology, medical imaging, histology, morphometry, lipidology, endocrinology and cellular and molecular biology. In addition, the team develops original approaches in gestation microscopy and imaging.

Unit members working on placenta


  • Paul Berweiler
  • Pascale Chavatte-Palmer
  • Anne Couturier-Tarrade
  • Marie-Noëlle Dieudonné
  • Maria Flores-Sanabria
  • Delphine Rousseau-Ralliard

PhD students

  • Emilie Derisoud (3rd year)
  • Marta Hita (1st year)

Placenta groups

EPG gathers many groups working in research or in clinics or both, on human placenta but also on various animal and cellular models. The placenta of domestic and wild animals is also studied, both for veterinary purposes and to understand why this temporary organ is so variable in shape and organisation between species.

Reproductive Biology Laboratory, Amsterdam UMC, Netherlands

Main placenta-related topics:

The research of our team focusses on the functional genomics and epigenetics of proper placental development during pregnancy as this is critical for the delivery of a healthy baby. We use human models systems (trophoblast stem cells, cell lines, organoids, placental explants) to investigate these developments normally occurring in the first trimester of human pregnancy. Additionally, situations leading to a dysfunctional placenta (e.g. reduced trophoblast invasion) causing complications like pre-eclampsia and intra-uterine growth restriction are simulated, providing more insight in the origin of these events. Secondly, our team performs translational research on placental cells isolated from Pap smears collected from pregnant women to investigate if this can be used as a less invasive alternative to chorionic villous sampling to detect monogenic diseases.

Techniques & Technologies:

  • Placental cell, explant and organoid culture
  • Trophoblast Retrieval and Isolation from the Cervix (TRIC)
  • RNA-sequencing and bioinformatics
  • DNA methylation analysis

Principal Investigators

PhD students & Postdocs

  • Hajar Hassani Lahsinou
  • Febilla Fernando
  • Danai Georgiadou
  • Jantine van Voorden


  • Remco Keijser
  • Souad Boussata