My first degree was in Zoology from the University College of Wales Aberystwyth in 1974. I then studied for a PhD in Cellular Immunology in the Department of Immunology, St Mary’s Hospital Medical School, University of London, which was awarded in 1978. I joined the Nuffield Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Oxford in 1979 as a postdoctoral scientist. I was appointed as a lecturer in 1983, promoted to Reader in 1998 and to Professor of Reproductive Science in 2004. I was Scientific Director of the Oxford Fertility Unit from 1985 until 2004. I am a Fellow of Mansfield College, Oxford.
I have been an Associate Editor for Human Reproduction and the Journal of Reproductive Immunology, a member of the Wellbeing of Women Research Advisory Group, Wellcome Trust Physiological Sciences Funding Committee, MRC College of Experts and Scientific Advisory Boards for the Science Foundation for Ireland, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, USA and the Specialized Centre of Research on Sex Differences at the Mayo Clinic, USA.
I have also been the Secretary and Treasurer for the Reproductive Immunology Group of the British Society for Immunology and I am currently a member of the Executive Council of the European Society for Reproductive Immunology and President Elect of the International Society for the Immunology of Reproduction.
Professor of Reproductive Science
- Director of Graduate Studies
I lead the department's research into Pre-eclampsia in collaboration with Professor Chris Redman. We focus on:
The Role of Placental Extracellular Microvesicles and Exosomes in the Maternal Syndrome of Pre-eclampsia - The release of tiny cellular fragments (called extracellular vesicles) by the placenta is an important mechanism by which the fetus signals its needs to the mother. These vesicles are comprised of exosomes (50nm-150nm in size) and microvesicles (100nm-1000nm).They are released from the placenta into the maternal blood throughout gestation in normal pregnancy where they appear to inhibit harmful maternal immune (T cell and NK cell) responses. In pre-eclampsia they are released in significantly increased numbers and have pro-inflammatory, anti-angiogenic and procoagulant activity which could explain the maternal systemic inflammation, endothelial dysfunction and activation of the clotting system which characterises the disorder.
We are investigating the repertoire of molecules carried by the microvesicles and exosomes and how they differ in normal pregnancy and pre-eclampsia. To obtain sufficient vesicles for analysis we have carried out placental perfusion on normal and pre-eclampsia placentas. We have pioneered the use of Nanoparticle Tracking Analysis (NTA) and multicolour flow cytometry to characterise these vesicles and investigated the proteins they carry by mass spectrometry. More than 2,000 proteins have been identified in the vesicles, with some unique to pre-eclampsia and others unique to normal pregnancy.These proteins are being investigated as potential biomarkers for pre-eclampsia and may provide targets for future treatments.
Early prediction & clinical care for the highest risk groups - Analysis of blood or urine samples taken both during and prior to the development of the pre-eclampsia. We established the Oxford Pregnancy Biobank to collect samples from 1,000 women a year in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd trimesters, as well as at the onset and during the disease. Placental blood flow, a partial predictor, was measured by Doppler ultrasound at the 1st and 2nd visits. Samples from the Biobank are being used by researchers in Oxford, in other universities in the UK and overseas, as well as by industrial partners. These achievements have established a strong foundation for future translational research with respect to pregnancy problems that are a substantial economic burden on the NHS. The Biobank has enabled new diagnostic biomarkers to be tested rapidly.
Reproductive Immunology - In collaboration with Dr Ingrid Granne and Dr Jen Southcombe, we are exploring possible immune markers of pregnancy failure in patients with failed implantation after IVF, recurrent miscarriage and pre-eclampsia.