A global approach to advancing prediction and understanding of preeclampsia pathogenesis

3 minute read

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With the target of the Millennium Development Goals to improve maternal health by saving more than half a million women who die because of pregnancy complications each year until 2030 in sight, improving preeclampsia/eclampsia management in developing countries needs to be a priority area.

Preeclampsia is one of the most severe pregnancy complications, affecting 3-8% of pregnancies worldwide and claiming the lives of many mothers and babies. The burden of this disease is particularly severe in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC); WHO estimates preeclampsia incidence to be seven times higher than high income countries (HIC). Among survivors, its legacy is significant maternal and perinatal morbidity. This can include maternal stroke and kidney damage, while the baby is more likely to be born preterm, sick and small. Moreover, preeclampsia leaves a lifelong footprint: affected women have increased rates of future cardiovascular disease. The devastating maternal and child consequences of preeclampsia, in pregnancy and beyond, make it a major global health priority.

Early detection of preeclampsia is known to improve outcomes, yet a reliable test to predict its development is currently lacking. Our global innovative aim is to develop novel screening/diagnostic approaches to drive forward knowledge and understanding of how and why preeclampsia occurs more frequently and with high severity in LMIC.

These projects will bring together key strengths from the Dechend and Kaitu’u-Lino laboratories to study novel molecules dysregulated in preeclamptic placentas, as potential biomarkers for preeclampsia.

Project goals

These projects aim to:

  • Utilise cutting edge tools to analyse single nuclei RNA sequencing (snRNA-Seq) and evaluate specific geospecific signalling pathways and underlying mechanisms in placentas from both LMIC and HIC.
  • Study placental enriched molecules to identify their pattern of expression in placentas from LMIC and HIC.
  • Assess the potential of lead candidate molecules as diagnostic or therapeutic targets for earlier prediction and treatment of preeclampsia.

Supervision team

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Who we are looking for

We are seeking a PhD candidate with the following skills:

  • A Masters and/or honours qualification in a related field of biology.
  • Demonstrated laboratory experience.
  • Experience in computational biology or willingness to learn these skills.
  • Demonstrated ability to work independently and as part of a team.
  • Demonstrated time and project management skills.
  • Demonstrated ability to write research reports or other publications to a publishable standard (even if not published to date).
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills.
  • Demonstrated organisational skills, time management and ability to work to priorities.
  • Demonstrated problem-solving abilities.

Further details

  • Two PhD projects are available. One candidate will be based at University of Melbourne with a minimum twelve-month stay at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. The Berlin University Alliance based candidate will be based in Berlin, and will spend a minimum of 12 months at the University of Melbourne.
  • The PhD candidate will benefit from the combined expertise of the project supervisors, and the embedding into two research environments.
  • Prof Tu'uhevaha Kaitu'u-Lino at the University of Melbourne will contribute expertise in preeclampsia pathogenesis and biomarker screening Prof Ralf Dechend at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin will contribute expertise in molecular medicine, especially the vascular remodel of placental development and pathophysiology of preeclampsia and utilising omics technique, including single cell sequencing.
  • The candidate will be enrolled in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Department Science PhD program at the University of Melbourne, and in Department of Cardiology at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin.


To apply for this joint PhD opportunity, and to view the entry requirements, visit How to apply.

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How to apply

Apply for a joint PhD with the Berlin University Alliance - Melbourne Joint Training Group.

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