Research Projects
Human Placental Development and Pregnancy Complications

Programme(s) to which this project applies:

☑ MPhil/PhD ☒ MRes[Med] ☒ URIS

The placenta is an important organ not only for exchange of nutrients and waste between the fetus and the mother, but also for production of hormones and growth factors to support fetal growth. Key events in placentation include attachment of the blastocyst to the uterus, development of placenta villous, invasion of trophoblasts, placental angiogenesis and remodelling of spiral arteries in the decidua. Dysregulation of these processes is associated with various pregnancy complications leading to significant maternal and fetal death. Preeclampsia is one of these complications characterised by insufficient invasion of the trophoblast and maternal spiral artery remodelling. It affects 2-5% of all pregnancies, and is the leading cause of prenatal mortality and morbidity. Currently, there remains no therapeutic approach available for either treatment or prevention of preeclampsia. There is also no reliable diagnostic test for early prediction of preeclampsia before clinical symptoms developed. We are interested in how different intrinsic and extrinsic factors regulate human placental development and their associations with adverse pregnancy outcomes. Currently, the following projects will be offered:

  1. The role of endometrial factors on placental vascular remodelling during early pregnancy and its association with early-onset preeclampsia,
  2. Transcriptional spatial profiling of human placental tissues;
  3. The regulation of trophoblast differentiation during early pregnancy; and
  4. The possible use of placenta-targeted nanomedicine in the treatment of placental disorder

Professor PCN Chiu, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology

Professor Philip CN Chiu received his PhD at the University of Hong Kong in 2004. He is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, the University of Hong Kong and the Principal Research Scientist at the Shenzhen Key Laboratory of Fertility Regulation, The University of Hong Kong-Shenzhen Hospital, China. He also serves as the President of the Hong Kong Society of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Reproduction. Professor Chiu has more than 15 years of research experience in reproductive biology and has more than 70 international high-impact publications including Science, PNAS, Diabetes, Human Reproduction Update, Mucosal Immunology and Nature Communications. These articles has been extensively cited for over 2000 times (h-index=28). His current research interests focus on human fertilisation, immune cells-trophoblast interactions at the maternal-fetal interface and trophoblast function/differentiation. 

HKU Scholars Hub

For more information or to express interest for this project, please email the supervisor or the specified contact point in the project description.  Interested candidates are advised to enclose with your email:

  1. your CV,
  2. a brief description of your research interest and experience, and
  3. two reference letters (not required for HKUMed UG students seeking MRes[Med]/URIS projects).

Information on the research programme, funding support and admission documentations could be referenced online at the Research Postgraduate Admissions website. General admission enquiries should be directed to

HKUMed MBBS students interested in the Master of Research in Medicine (MRes[Med]) programme may visit the programme website for more information.  

HKUMed UG students interested in the Undergraduate Research Internship Scheme (URIS) may visit the scheme’s website for more information.