Dr Katrina Chau, a PhD student with the Vascular Immunology group at the HRI, has been awarded Best Scientific Presentation at the 2017 Annual Scientific Meeting held by the Society of Obstetric Medicine of Australia and New Zealand (SOMANZ) in conjunction with the Australasian Diabetes in Pregnancy Society (ADIPS).
Dr Chau’s presentation on ‘Effect of placental growth factor on trophoblast integration into endothelial cell networks in the presence of inflammation’ showcased her experiments investigating the effects of placental growth factor on the interaction between blood vessel cells and placenta cells.
Dr Chau receiving her award from Dr Mark Morton, president of SOMANZ
As Dr Chau explains, “When an embryo embeds into the mother’s womb, it immediately sets to work in forming the placenta which will feed the growth of the baby. A well-formed placenta has a strong blood supply from the mother, but the factors which affect the development of these blood vessels is not well understood. In our experiments, we tried to determine whether placental growth factor has an effect on this process, because it has been observed that women who develop pre-eclampsia have low placental growth factor (PlGF) levels. Unfortunately, PlGF doesn’t seem to influence this important developmental event.”
The next stage of Dr Chau’s research will be to investigate other ways to prevent pre-eclampsia, such as through exercise and control of blood pressure pre-conception.
Meet the team: Dr Katrina Chau
As a renal physician, Dr Chau has seen many women affected by pre-eclampsia first-hand. Inspired to investigate pre-eclampsia further in an attempt to discover the causes and a cure, she started her PhD at the HRI in 2014.
“Learning the mechanics of basic science research has been fantastic, as well as developing a deeper understanding of the problem of pre-eclampsia and what we can do to prevent it and improve outcomes,” Dr Chau says.
“I’m incredibly inspired by the work done by my co-supervisors Professor Annemarie Hennessy and Associate Professor Angela Makris. Research is a long road, full of ups and downs. You have to be self-driven in order to direct and plan your work to move forward.”