Margherita Yayoi Turco

Group News

Dec 2, 2021
Uterine atlas can lead to better models of the womb, provide insights into diseases
Nov 24, 2021
Studying the understudied in human biology: a chat with Margherita Yayoi Turco
Nov 8, 2021
Mini-placentas: promising tools for studying early pregnancy and its complications
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Margherita Yayoi Turco

Human placental development and the uterine microenvironment

We are interested in understanding how cells acquire their specific identities and how tissues are built through their interactions in the context of reproduction. Reproduction is a requirement for the continuation of all living species and there is a wide range of strategies. Mammals are defined by their ability for viviparity - the development of the embryo inside the body - made possible by the fetal placenta and its interactions with the maternal uterus. In humans, these tissues are in close apposition as specialized trophoblast cells of the placenta infiltrate deep into the uterus. This is an intriguing and crucial process in which two different tissues (placenta and uterus) from two genetically distinct individuals (fetus and mother) become a functional unit for a defined period of time.

Abnormal development of the placenta and deficient interactions with the uterus underlie the major pregnancy disorders including miscarriage, pre-eclampsia and stillbirth. However, our understanding of the cellular and molecular interactions that occur in early pregnancy is limited due to practical and ethical reasons and until recently, the lack of physiologically relevant in vitro models. A few years ago, our lab developed 3D organoid culture systems of the human placenta and the uterus which recapitulate key morphological, functional and transcriptional features of their tissue of origin, making the study of early pregnancy much easier.

Our goal is to use these multicellular systems combined with gene editing, single cell and tissue engineering approaches, to define the molecular mechanisms that govern the generation of the functional lineages of each tissue and to investigate the nature of the maternal-fetal interactions in vitro. This will allow us to finally address the long-standing and fundamental question in human developmental biology and reproduction: how does the placenta develop and how is this process influenced by the maternal uterine microenvironment?

Margherita Yayoi Turco

This is a list of selected publications from this group. For a full list of publications, please visit our Publications page and search by group name.

Cindrova-Davies T, Zhao X, Elder K, Jones CJP, Moffett A, Burton GJ, Turco MY. (2021) Menstrual flow as a non-invasive source of endometrial organoids.

Communications Biology. 2021 Jun 17;4(1):651.

Perez-Garcia V, Lea G, Lopez-Jimenez P, Okkenhaug H, Burton GJ, Moffett A, Turco MY, Hemberger M. (2021) BAP1/ASXL complex modulation regulates epithelial-mesenchymal transition during trophoblast differentiation and invasion.

eLife. 2021 Jun 25;10:e63254.

Alzamil L, Nikolakopoulou K, Turco MY. (2021) Organoid systems to study the human female reproductive tract and pregnancy.

Cell Death & Differentiation. 2021 Jan;28(1):35-51.

Sheridan MA, Fernando RC, Gardner L, Hollinshead MS, Burton GJ, Moffett A, Turco MY. (2020) Establishment and differentiation of long-term trophoblast organoid cultures from the human placenta.

Nature Protocols. 2020 Oct;15(10):3441-3463.

Abbas Y, Brunel LG, Hollinshead MS, Fernando RC, Gardner L, Duncan I, Moffett A, Best S, Turco MY, Burton GJ, Cameron RE. (2020) Generation of a three-dimensional collagen scaffold-based model of the human endometrium.

Interface Focus. 2020 Apr 6;10(2):20190079.

Turco MY, Moffett A. (2019) Development of the human placenta.

Development. 2019 Nov 27;146(22):dev163428.

Turco MY, Gardner L, Kay RG, Hamilton RS, Prater M, Hollinshead MS, McWhinnie A, Esposito L, Fernando R, Skelton H, Reimann F, Gribble FM, Sharkey A, Marsh SGE, O'Rahilly S, Hemberger M, Burton GJ, Moffett A. (2018) Trophoblast organoids as a model for maternal-fetal interactions during human placentation.

Nature. 2018 Dec;564(7735):263-267.

Lee CQE, Turco MY, Gardner L, Simons BD, Hemberger M, Moffett A. (2018) Integrin a2 marks a niche of trophoblast progenitor cells in first trimester human placenta.

Development. 2018 Apr 16;145(16):dev162305.

Vento-Tormo R, Efremova M, Botting RA, Turco MY, Vento-Tormo M, Meyer KB, Park JE, Stephenson E, Polanski K, Goncalves A, Gardner L, Holmqvist S, Henriksson J, Zou A, Sharkey AM, Millar B, Innes B, Wood L, Wilbrey-Clark A, Payne RP, Ivarsson MA, Lisgo S, Filby A, Rowitch DH, Bulmer JN, Wright GJ, Stubbington MJT, Haniffa M, Moffett A, Teichmann SA (2018) Single-cell reconstruction of the early maternal-fetal interface in humans.

Nature. 2018 Nov;563(7731):347-353.

Turco MY, Gardner L, Hughes J, Cindrova-Davies T, Gomez MJ, Farrell L, Hollinshead M, Marsh SGE, Brosens JJ, Critchley HO, Simons BD, Hemberger M, Koo BK, Moffett A, Burton GJ. (2017) Long-term, hormone-responsive organoid cultures of human endometrium in a chemically defined medium.

Nature Cell Biology 2017 May;19(5):568-577.

Lee CQ, Gardner L, Turco M, Zhao N, Murray MJ, Coleman N, Rossant J, Hemberger M, Moffett A. (2016) What Is Trophoblast? A Combination of Criteria Define Human First-Trimester Trophoblast.

Stem Cell Reports. 2016 Feb 9;6(2):257-72.

Full list of publications
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Group leader

In current position since 2021
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PhD students

In current position since 2021
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In current position since 2021
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Postdoctoral fellows

In current position since 2021
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Technical/Research associates

In current position since 2021
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PhD in Molecular Medicine, European Institute of Oncology (IEO) and University of Milano, Italy
Diploma in Veterinary Biotechnology, University of Bologna, Italy

Positions held

Junior Group Leader, Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research, Basel, Switzerland
Group Leader, University of Cambridge, UK
Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellow, University of Cambridge, UK
Research Associate, University of Cambridge, UK


European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant
Royal Society Enhancement Award
Ferring Pharmaceuticals-Milner Research Collaborative Project
Isaac Newton Trust Research Grant
L'Oreal Women in Science Fellowship
Royal Society Research Grant for Research Fellows
Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellowship
Marie Curie Intra-European Research Fellowship
PhD fellowship from the European School of Molecular Medicine