Dr Jo James

BTech (Hons, Biomedical Science), PhD (Obstetrics and Gynaecology)

Research | Current

Trophoblast Stem Cells

We currently understand very little about how the human placenta is formed, but the development of this organ in early pregnancy is crucial to lay the foundations for ongoing pregnancy success. Trophoblasts are specialised epithelial cells only found in the placenta.  This research is focussed on  isolating and characterisation of a novel population of putative trophoblast stem cells from the human placenta.  We aim to use these cells to both us understand how the human placenta is formed in healthy pregnancies, and how this may go wrong in pregnancy disorders.


Mesenchymal Stem Cells

The formation, expansion and branching of the placental blood vessels are essential to deliver nutrients from maternal blood to the growing baby in utero and inadequate development of this vasculature is associated with fetal growth restriction.  This research aims to use mesencymal stem cells from early gestation and term placentae to understand how the placental blood vessels are formed at the beginning of pregnancy and the factors that may affect their development. We are also investigating whether mesenchymal stem cells are defective in placentae from pregnancies affected by fetal growth restriction, with the long term goal of employing these cells therapeutically to fix faulty placentae.


Uteroplacental Blood Flow

During early pregnancy the uterine spiral arteries are remodelled from tightly coiled vessels to wide open tubes to allow a constant and increased supply of nutrient and oxygen rich maternal blood to flow to the surface of the placenta as pregnancy progresses. This remodelling process involves significant haemodynamic changes within this circulation.  Together with Dr Alys Clark (ABI) we aim to generate in silico models that relate the structural changes that occur within these vessels to their functional ability to perfuse blood across the placental surface evenly.  This will allow us to understand how inadequate placental perfusion affects placental function and consequently pregnancy outcome.


Teaching | Current

MEDSCI313 - Reproductive Biology

MEDSCI730 - Reproductive Science

Areas of expertise

My research focus is the placenta – one of the least understood human organs.  This multi-talented organ acts as a life support system for every one of us during our time in utero by delivering nutrients and oxygen that are essential for growth. Its ability to do this successfully at the end of pregnancy, when fetal demand is greatest, is dependent on successful placental development in early pregnancy. A poorly functioning placenta is thought to be a major component of the disease process in many pregnancy disorders including preeclampsia, fetal growth restriction (FGR) and recurrent miscarriage. Together, these disorders affect 1 in 10 pregnancies. However, despite our absolute reliance on the placenta, we do not understand the basic biological processes that underpin placental formation, or why these may fail, and we cannot currently treat faulty placentae. The primary focus of my research is to use the stem cells from which the placenta is built to understand 1) how a healthy placenta forms in early pregnancy; 2) how inadequacies in stem cell function contribute to poorly developed placentas in pregnancy disorders; and 3) whether stem cells could be targeted therapeutically to fix poorly formed placentas. 

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • James, J., Tun, W., & Clark, A. (2016). Quantifying trophoblast migration: In vitro approaches to address in vivo situations. Cell Adhesion & Migration, 10 (1-2), 77-87. 10.1080/19336918.2015.1083667
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/28790
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Win Min Tun, Alys Clark
  • James, J. L., Hurley, D. G., Gamage, T. K. J. B., Zhang, T., Vather, R., Pantham, P., ... Chamley, L. W. (2015). Isolation and characterisation of a novel trophoblast side-population from first trimester placentae. Reproduction (Cambridge, England), 150 (5), 449-462. 10.1530/rep-14-0646
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Teena Gamage, Larry Chamley
  • Clark, A., Lin, M., Tawhai, M., Saghian, R., & James, J. (2015). Multiscale modelling of the feto-placental vasculature. Interface focus, 5 (2).10.1098/rsfs.2014.0078
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/27890
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Merryn Tawhai, Alys Clark, Mabelle Yuling Lin
  • Prossler, J., Chen, Q., Chamley, L., & James, J. L. (2014). The relationship between TGFβ, low oxygen and the outgrowth of extravillous trophoblasts from anchoring villi during the first trimester of pregnancy. Cytokine, 68 (1), 9-15. 10.1016/j.cyto.2014.03.001
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Qi Chen, Larry Chamley
  • James, J. L., Srinivasan, S., Alexander, M., & Chamley, L. W. (2014). Can we fix it? Evaluating the potential of placental stem cells for the treatment of pregnancy disorders. Placenta, 35 (2), 77-84. 10.1016/j.placenta.2013.12.010
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Larry Chamley
  • James, J. L. (2014). Overview of Human Implantation. In L. M. McManus, R. N. Mitchell (Eds.) Pathobiology of Human Disease: A Dynamic Encyclopedia of Disease Mechanisms (pp. 2293-2307). Amsterdam: Academic Press. 10.1016/B978-0-12-386456-7.05005-X
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/24259
  • James, J. L., Carter, A. M., & Chamley, L. W. (2012). Human placentation from nidation to 5 weeks of gestation. Part II: Tools to model the crucial first days. Placenta, 33 (5), 335-342. 10.1016/j.placenta.2012.01.019
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Larry Chamley
  • James, J. L., Cartwright, J. E., Whitley, G. S., Greenhill, D. R., & Hoppe, A. (2012). The regulation of trophoblast migration across endothelial cells by low shear stress: consequences for vascular remodelling in pregnancy. Cardiovasc Res, 93 (1), 152-161. 10.1093/cvr/cvr276
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/9380


Contact details

Primary office location

M&HS BUILDING 502 - Bldg 502
Level 2, Room 201
New Zealand

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