Mijo Simunovic Earns Grant to Investigate Early Pregnancy

Their project will study the signaling and biomechanics of embryo implantation and failure

Aug 06 2021 | By Jesse Adams | Photo courtesy of Mijo Simunovic

Professor Mijo Simunovic has earned a prestigious Next Gen Pregnancy Initiative Grant from the Burroughs-Wellcome Fund, awarded biennially to just a handful of scientists whose research aims to advance pregnancy outcomes. Simunovic will receive $500,000 in funding over the next four years for their project “dissecting the signaling and biomechanics of embryo implantation and failure using quantitative organoids of early human embryogenesis.”

As assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, Simunovic heads the Laboratory of Synthetic Human Organogenesis at the Columbia University Medical Center and is also part of Columbia Stem Cell Initiative and the Department of Genetics and Development. The lab combines chemical engineering and developmental biology to study the basic biology of mammalian embryo and organ development in health and disease, and creates stem cell tools aimed at advancing reproductive and regenerative medicine.

Simunovic plans to devote the grant to investigating the molecular mechanisms of uterine implantation by engineering a quantitative organoid platform that mimics the chemical and the mechanical tissue microenvironment at the placenta-uterine interface. This stem cell-based model will enable, for the first time, study in great detail of chemical and biomechanical signaling in the course of implantation in hopes of contributing to the understanding of molecular signatures that lead to improper implantation and early pregnancy disorders.

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