Techniques and Equipment

Pregnancy success results from a complex interaction between fetal and maternal cells in which soluble mediators play a key role. The investigation of such a fascinating phenomenon can be achieved using a combination of molecular based methods, immunological analysis and cell imaging.

Our laboratory is fully equipped with a vriety of instruments that allow us to assess multiple aspects of pregnancy-related processes. Our Li-COR infrared imaging system is a wonderful tool to analyze and semiquantify intracellular signalling and protein expression by in-cell western or western blot. To detect secreted proteins from different cell types we have established a variety of ELISAs or use a multiplex assay. With our Bio-Plex 200 system we are able to quantify up to 80 analytes in a very small volume (25-50 µL). In addition, we measure gene expression of interesting candidates with our Applied Biosystems 7300 Real-Time PCR System.

Our laboratory has a strong focus on the role of different immune cells. Flow cytometry has therefore become a powerful tool for identifying and characterizing specific cells in a complex sample such as decidua. We are particularly proud of our Attune NxT 16-parameter cytometer with acoustic focusing. It allows not only the quantification of eukaryotic cells but also that of bacteria and extracellular vesicles. Cell viability, cell cycle progression and cell activation analysis are also routinely performed on this device.

With our ZEISS Axio Observer microscope, we can perform functional examinations that reflect essential events in early pregnancy, such as trophoblast migration and angiogenic processes. Here we take advantage of the live cell imaging posibilities as well as immunohistochemistry and immunofluorescence staining that further enrich our work.
Finally, specialized cell culture conditions are important to simulate the environment at the fetomaternal interface. We are equipped with incubators that allow to set low oxygen conditions as those present during the first weeks of pregnancy.