Placental Development Group

The Placental Development Group focuses on the effect of maternal allergy and stress during pregnancy and its effect on the placenta, maternal outcomes and child health. A large part of our work focuses on glucocorticoids which are stress hormones essential for life, and critical for growth and development during pregnancy. When synthetic glucocorticoids are used as a medication at high doses, they have potent immune suppression effects which are used to treat a wide range of auto-immune and inflammatory disorders. Unfortunately, this comes at the cost of a range of potential side effects. Our group are working to understand differences in sensitivity to glucocorticoids between individuals by studying different types of the glucocorticoid receptor, and how these impact glucocorticoid function. This research includes studying blood cells from participants being treated with glucocorticoids and placental tissue after delivery. Through gaining a greater understanding of how these different variants of the receptor interact and function, we hope to improve the safety of glucocorticoid prescribing and learn more about the fetal response to stress. 

Another aspect of our research revolves around understanding the current health and wellbeing of families across Queensland. We have set up a longitudinal birth cohort, the Queensland Family Cohort Study, where we recruit families who are expecting a baby at the Mater Mother’s Hospital South Brisbane, and follow their pregnancy journey until 6 weeks after their child is born. Questionnaires are asked of the families about their physical, health and mental wellbeing and families kindly donate biological samples like urine, nails, blood, saliva, skin swabs, placenta and breast milk. We can use this extensive information to better understand: (1) the genetic and biological mechanisms that drive chronic disease risk in our children, (2) the current status of parental physical and mental health throughout a global pandemic and its impact on child health and (3) what influence the environment and climate change can have on the health of our children and future generations. Ultimately, by following families over time, we hope that we will be able to discover new biomarkers, develop better drugs, change clinical care and policy and focus on influencing environmental policy over the next 30 years.

Group Members

  • Jade Kubler
  • Jack Lockett
  • Claire Thurston
  • Danielle Borg

Group Leaders