With great pleasure, we announce that we have selected Karin Windsperger as PhD Student of the Month for October 2020. Karin is enrolled in the N094 programme „Endocrinology and Metabolism“ and works at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Furthermore, she has been serving as chair of „Junge Gyn“, the representation of young doctors within the Austrian Society of Gynecology and Obstetrics (OEGGG) since 2018.
In her thesis project, Karin investigates placental development and function: A series of processes taking place at the fetal-maternal interface are a prerequisite for a successful pregnancy outcome, but still need to be unraveled. In particular, the fetal placenta anchors with its villous tree to the maternal uterine tissue, referred to as decidua. Afterwards, precisely controlled differentiation processes give rise to proliferative cell columns which differentiate into highly invasive extravillous trophoblasts (EVTs) at their distal end. These cells penetrate the decidua and fulfill fundamental functions (e.g. invasion/ remodeling of vessels and glands, secretion of pregnancy-related factors, and interaction with immune cells). Importantly, defective EVT functions are associated with severe pregnancy complications (e.g. recurrent spontaneous abortion, preeclampsia, and intrauterine growth restriction).
The overall goal of Karin’s research project is to identify mechanisms that underlie abnormal placental development and function and to transfer these findings into clinically useful tools to improve pregnancy outcomes. Karin’s research efforts already resulted in various publications, two of which were published in the top-ranked journal „Human Reproduction“.