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Department of Pathology


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We are investigating how the maternal immune system regulates placentation in humans.


We view the fetal allograft as one of cooperation between mother and fetus. We are focused on how the dominant population of uterine leukocytes, Natural Killer (NK) cells, that have receptors for HLA class I ligands on fetal trophoblast cells, regulate trophoblast function.

We work in close collaboration with Dr Francesco Colucci in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.


The main areas of current research are:

  • Interactions between maternal Killer-cell Immunoglobulin-like Receptor (KIR) and fetal HLA-C molecules. Because both KIR and HLA-C genes are highly polymorphic, each pregnancy is likely to be different.  Our genetic and functional studies in Europeans and Africans show certain KIR/HLA-C genetic combinations are associated with extremes of the normal birth weight distribution.
  • Culture of human trophoblast cells.  Studies on pregnancy disorders are limited because trophoblast stem cell lines have not been obtained. We are working to identify, isolate and culture trophoblast cells from early pregnancy.
  • Maternal Health Research Unit linked to Makerere University, Mulago Hospital, Kampala, Uganda. After the success of our initial project studying Immunogenetics of KIR/HLA-C variants linked to pre-eclampsia in Ugandans, we are now extending the link to investigate puerperal sepsis and obstructed labour.  I lead the maternal health theme as part of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Global Health Research.






Professor Ashley Moffett

Principal Investigator           



Dr Andrew Sharkey

Associate Lecturer


Lucy Gardner

Lab Manager


Holly Anderson

Research Assistant


Dr Qian Li

Research Associate