Center Brings Doctors, Scientists Together to Improve Health of Mother and Child

Topics include causes of miscarriage, preterm birth issues, preeclampsia and developmental origins of health and disease

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A new center at University of California San Diego School of Medicine is bringing together doctors, researchers and patients to improve the health of mothers and their children through collaborative science.

Based at the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine, the Center for Perinatal Discovery at UC San Diego is a focal point for clinical, translational and basic research projects to better understand the interactions between maternal health, environmental exposures, fertility, pregnancy and the health of children before and after birth.

“Communities thrive when everyone works together toward a common goal. Improving maternal and child health increases the vitality of the entire community,” said Mana Parast, MD, PhD, co-director of the center and professor of pathology at UC San Diego.

“From obstetricians and neonatologists to pathologists, radiologists, engineers and basic scientists, we are all working together to advance the science of pregnancy and promote maternal and neonatal health.”

With faculty representing nine different departments, the center is the only one of its kind in the region.

Specific research topics include detection of biomarkers for adverse pregnancy outcomes, effects of pregnancy exposures and the maternal microbiome on pregnancy outcomes, understanding how the maternal immune response changes during pregnancy, and investigating causes of pregnancy loss, such as miscarriage and stillbirth.

“The goal is for our center to produce findings that can go from the research lab to the bedside, directly impacting patient care and improving the health of pregnant women and children throughout their lives,” said Louise Laurent, MD, PhD, co-director of the center and professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive science at UC San Diego.

Case in point: During pregnancy, everything revolves around the placenta. It is an organ only present during pregnancy, yet it impacts the health of both mom and baby long after birth. By sampling placentas at delivery and applying the latest advances in stem cell biology, center researchers are developing Petri dish models that mimic the actual organ.

This will allow them to look more closely at pregnancy issues like preeclampsia, a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy, and placenta accreta, a serious condition where the placenta grows too deeply into and fails to separate from the uterine wall.

“The placenta is one of most poorly understood organs. Having the tools to study it, we can examine how it develops and functions across pregnancy. We can find out how a malfunction can result in health issues during and after pregnancy for both mother and child,” said Parast. “The Center for Perinatal Discovery is really about precision medicine and dedicating our resources to improve women’s health.”

For more information about the Center for Perinatal Discovery at UC San Diego, including the annual symposium focusing on perinatal loss, please visit


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