Characterisation of the human extra-embryonic macrophage population, Hofbauer cells, phenotype and function

Year of award: 2016


  • Dr Naomi McGovern

    University of Cambridge

Project summary

The human placenta is a major signalling organ that regulates the health of both the mother and developing fetus during pregnancy. The placenta is generally thought to consist of the maternal and the fetal side. While we have some understanding of the biology of maternal-derived immune cells in the placenta, our understanding of fetal-derived immune cells is still extremely poor. In particular, I am interested in studying fetal-derived macrophages in the placenta, commonly termed Hofbauer cells (HBC). HBC are thought to play a key role in placenta development and in defending the developing fetus from infection. However, we still have little understanding of how HBC do this. This is particularly relevant for pathogens such as Zika virus which seem to be able to cross the placenta from the mother to infect the fetus.

This study will help to develop better techniques to identify HBC and will highlight the importance of HBC in placenta development and demonstrate how they help protect the fetus from infection.