Simmons Group - Placental biology

The major focus of our lab is development of the placenta; a highly specialized organ of pregnancy that facilitates the exchange of nutrients and waste between a mother and her developing fetus (or fetuses if you happen to be a mouse). Abnormalities in placentation can result in a range of serious pregnancy complications such as pre-eclampsia and intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR).

Our lab uses transgenic mouse lines, trophoblast stem cell cultures, and other molecular biology tools to study placental development and early implantation in mice.

More specifically, the lab has an interest in the differentiation and function of trophoblast cells, the cell type that makes up the majority of the mature placenta. Trophoblast cells are a diverse bunch, with distinct subtypes having unique cell biology and roles within the placenta; some trophoblast cells are multinucleated as a result a cell-cell fusion (syncytiotrophoblast), some are invasive (glycogen trophoblast cells), while others become enormous polyploid cells due to an unusual cell cycle called endoreduplication. Collectively, we are interested in how these different trophoblast subtypes differentiate from stem cells and how they interact to form a functional placenta.

Along with placental development, the lab also has an interest in the initiation of embryo implantation. We aim to understand more about the uterine environment into which embryos implant and how changes to this environment are regulated and affect fertility.

Group Head


1. The role of histone variants and chromatin remodeling in preparing the endometrium for embryo implantation and early placental development
2. Characterization the placental phenotype of Ly6e-/- mice
3. Investigating an unusual placental cell-type - sinusoidal trophoblast giant cells


1. The role of sulfate in maternal adaptations to pregnancy: brain development and mothering ability

Find out more about our diverse range of research interests.