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Application Stories

microRNAs in Pregnancy

miRCURY LNA™ Universal RT microRNA PCR
Dr Karen Forbes
Dr Karen Forbes
Bernadette Baker
Bernadette Baker
Dr Karen Forbes and Mrs. Bernadette Baker work in the Centre for Women’s Health, University of Manchester, St Mary’s Hospital, UK where they study the role of microRNA in placental development and function.

What is the main focus of your research/the research conducted in your lab?

Normal development and function of the placenta is absolutely critical in achieving a successful pregnancy, for normal foetal growth depends directly on the transfer of nutrients from mother to baby via this organ. Altered placental and foetal growth is associated with both short term and long term health risks for the foetus. Many babies that are born too small die and others require costly neonatal intensive care. Those babies that do survive have higher rates of obesity and a greater risk of developing diabetes or cardiovascular disease in adulthood. It is therefore important to understand how placental growth and function is regulated in normal pregnancy and to investigate how this goes wrong in pregnancy complications. Work in our lab is focussed on understanding the molecular mechanism responsible for regulating placental development and function.

How did your research lead to the study of microRNAs?

Our research has previously demonstrated that multiple growth factor signaling molecules are required for normal placental development. In other systems microRNAs regulate expression of growth factor signaling molecules. We became interested in establishing if microRNAs regulate growth factor signaling and thus development and function of the placenta.

How did you initially identify which microRNAs were interesting in your system?

We performed miRCURY LNA™ microRNA arrays to identify microRNAs that are associated with normal placental development, and to identify placental microRNAs that are altered in pregnancy complications.

What is the aim of your current project?

We are now using LNA™-enhanced microRNA qPCR to validate the array data, to investigate expression of microRNAs after manipulation (e.g. microRNA inhibition or overexpression) and to establish whether components of the maternal circulation influence placental microRNA expression.

What was your previous experience with microRNA qPCR?

Previously, we used a qPCR system that relied on reverse transcription using individual microRNAs specific primers. This was costly and time consuming.

What was most important to you when choosing a microRNA qPCR system?

The most important features for us were specificity and ease of use.

Why did you choose Exiqon’s miRCURY LNA™ Universal RT microRNA PCR system?

The system is very easy to use. If you have any experience of standard PCR then it will be very familiar and even a novice should be able to carry out the simple format.

The universal RT has saved us a lot of time and money and greatly enhanced our productivity.

Another factor was the LNA™ technology enhancing primer specificity and sensitivity to help answer our research question. The optional spike-in control is also beneficial.

Would you recommend Exiqon and/or Exiqon’s microRNA qPCR system to colleagues?

We would definitely recommend to colleagues and have already done so. Many colleagues and collaborators now use this system.

What are the next steps in this project and how do you plan to perform them?

We have followed on from our expression analysis by manipulating microRNA expression in placental cells. We have then defined the function of individual microRNAs and identified their targets by performing proteomics and arrays.

What are the future perspectives for this research?

Ultimately we hope to identify microRNAs that can be used therapeutically to improve pregnancy outcomes in pregnancies complicated by altered placental development and function.

When and where will be hear /read more about your studies?

We have a number of manuscripts in preparation and we hope that these will be published in the next few months.

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