Dr. Stephen Renaud
Ph.D. Queen's University
B.Sc. Queen's University
Office: Medical Sciences Building, Rm. 428
Phone: 519-661-2111 Ext. 88272
My research interests encompass the cellular and molecular mechanisms of placental development and function. There are two reasons I am interested in studying the placenta. First, the placenta is an exceptionally unique organ, one with evolutionary adaptations not observed in any other tissue. The second reason is from a public health perspective. The placenta intimately connects a mother with her developing baby, and it performs vital functions required for pregnancy such as regulating nutrient exchange between maternal and fetal blood, and producing hormones necessary for fetal development. Placental maldevelopment or dysfunction is linked with a variety of pregnancy complications (e.g. pre-eclampsia, fetal growth restriction, pre-term birth, placenta accreta, spontaneous abortion) that cause significant maternal and fetal illness or death. Despite its importance for the health of mothers and their babies, we really don’t have a good grasp on how the placenta develops or functions.
Our research interests can be broadly divided into two themes:
- Development of the trophoblast: the epithelial component of the placenta is comprised of trophoblast cells. These cells originate from a multilineage differentiation pathway that progressively differentiate into specialized trophoblast lineages, each with distinct morphologies and functions. We are particularly interested in how transcription factors and epigenetic regulators coordinate the progressive differentiation of trophoblast cells into defined lineages. Active projects in the laboratory include i) determining how conserved “OVO-like” transcription factors coordinate the transition of trophoblast cells from progenitor to differentiated states; and ii) transcriptional control of endogenous retroviral genes, which are genes that encode cellular fusogens necessary for generation of the placental epithelial barrier.
- Defining interactions between maternal immune cells and trophoblast cells: we are interested in how trophoblast cells interact with maternal immune cells. Trophoblast cells express paternal antigens and should be recognized as foreign by maternal immune cells. Why trophoblast cells are tolerated during normal pregnancies is not clear, but it is hypothesized that aberrant interactions between maternal immune cells and trophoblast cells may play a role in the development of various obstetric complications. We use both in vitro and in vivo models to provide insight on how the immune environment can shape trophoblast behaviour, placental development, and fetal health.
For publications, please visit Dr. Renaud's Google Scholar page.