Professor John Aplin MA, PhD

Photograph of John Aplin

Professor of Reproductive Biomedicine

Maternal and Fetal Health Research Group
The University of Manchester
5th Floor Research
St Mary's Hospital
M13 9WL


My research group investigates fundamental problems in embryo implantation and placental development.  Maternal preparation for pregnancy and the role of the maternal environment as pregnancy begins are important, as are factors in both the embryo and the mother that predispose to failed implantation, miscarriage, preeclampsia, growth restriction and abruption.  Trophoblast cell biology is central in our research. We are also interested in vascularisation of the placenta and the role of stem cells in this process.

 I am Programme CoDirector for the Master of Research in Reproduction and Pregnancy. 

I teach reproductive biology and physiology at undergraduate level both in Life Sciences and Medicine. 

I have a longstanding interest in yoga and teach classes both outside and within the university.


My research group investigates the molecular and cellular mechanisms of embryo implantation and placental development, and the implications for disease and treatment of infertility and disorders of pregnancy.   The work bridges the clinical disciplines of reproductive medicine, obstetrics and maternal and fetal health.

The group is embedded in the collaborative environment of the Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre.  The Centre, with funding from Tommy’s:The baby Charity is using molecular, cellular, systems biology and integrative approaches for investigating aspects of pregnancy disease, including abnormalities in the way the placenta forms, grows, invades the uterine wall and develops a vascular system in early pregnancy to provide for the demands of the growing fetus.  Our research is founded on appreciation of the importance of the very earliest events in pregnancy for later health in the fetus, child and adult.

I am a founder member of the Faculty of 1000,  in the Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Section of the Diabetes and Endocrinology Faculty:

See the Aplin/Westwood laboratory website at:


I currently cosupervise 8 PhD students.  Two esteemed senior colleagues have recently been awarded advanced research degrees under my supervision.  I welcome enquiries from students wishing to study for a higher research degree in the general areas of pregnancy or infertility.

I codirect the masters programmes in Reproduction and Pregnancy (MRes MFH and MMed Sci (MFH)), and supervise projects for the students:

Undergraduate teaching includes a long tenure as Unit Coordinator for the popular final year Life Sciences course Human Reproductive Biology.    I teach glycobiology to final year life sciences students and reproductive physiology to first year MBChB students.   The laboratory hosts undergraduate students from FLS and FMHS for special study modules, dissertations and/or project placements.

From 2013 I have been on the teaching faculty of the annual placenta postgraduate workshop in Kingston, Ontario:



Social Responsibility

I teach yoga to staff and stufents at the university's WellBeing Centre and in the community, including classes for students with exam stress, back pain and other problems.   See: and

I am a keen cyclist, user of public transport, recycler and composter.  


As a Part II Chemistry undergraduate in Oxford, I became interested in biological chemistry. I moved to Vancouver and as a PhD student with Laurie Hall, developed biophysical approaches to investigating surface topography. Realising that surface glycoconjugates were important in cell-cell communication, I moved to MRC's laboratories at Mill Hill in London to work with Colin Hughes and learn about the biology of cell adhesion. Inspired by the possibility of applying new cell biological concepts to human pathophysiology, I moved to Manchester to a joint appointment between Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Biological Sciences. Most of my reproductive biology is self-taught, though Harold Fox's course on gynaecological pathology was a formative experience; Carolyn Jones, his former student, has been a staunch and resourceful colleague.  Stanley Glasser at Baylor, in whose lab I spent a sabbatical period, was a kind and persuasive mentor.  I acted as senior editor for the monograph The Endometrium (2008), a project first inspired by Stan:



Collaborators and affiliated staff

• Peter Ruane -- Postdoctoral Research Associate, 'Bridging the technology gap to improve implantation rates in ART.' Funded by a grant from WellBeng of Women with Dr Melissa Westwood and Professors Sue Kimber, Daniel Brison and Ian Sargent (Oxford).

•  Magda Karolczak – Post-doctoral Research Associate. “Use of nanoparticles to deliver growth signals to placenta”. Funded by an MRC grant with Dr Melissa Westwood, Dr Patrick Case (Bristol) and Dr Lynda Harris.

• Victoria Palin - PhD student funded by a Manchester Alumni Research Impact Scholarship. "Glucose sensing by the placenta - role of the hexosamine biosynthetic pathway in pregnancies complicated by maternal diabetes". Co-supervised with Dr Melissa Westwood and Professor Tony Whetton.

• Stephane Berneau – Anatomical Society funded PhD student. “Adhesion signalling in embryo-epithelial interactions at implantation”. Co-supervised with Dr Melissa Westwood and Professor Sue Kimber.

• Naa-Dei Nikoi – PhD student funded by the Now Nano  Award scheme. Cosupervised with Dr Julie Gough

• Toluwalope Junaid – PhD Student under the President’s doctoral programme. Cosupervised with Dr Ed Johnstone

• Natalie Cureton – PhD student under the BBSRC DTP Award scheme. Cosupervised with Dr Lynda Harris

• Anna King -- PhD student under the Now Nano  Award scheme. Cosupervised with Dr Lynda Harris

• Ruhul Choudhury -- PhD student cosupervised with Drs Rebecca Jones and Lynda Harris

Outside Manchester, recent and current collaborators include Drs Tom Moore (Cork), Chie-Pein Chen (Taipei), Patrick Case (Bristol), Jan Brosens (Warwick), Sarah Robertson (Adelaide), Alex Umbers (Melbourne), Gendie Lash and Judith Bulmer (Newcastle),  Vicki Abrahams (Yale), XiaoQin Ye (Georgia) and Telma Zorn (Sao Paulo).


Selected publications


  • Charnock, J. C., Dilworth, M. R., Aplin, J. D., Sibley, C. P., Westwood, M., & Crocker, I. P. (2016). The impact of a human IGF-II analog ([Leu27]IGF-II) on fetal growth in a mouse model of fetal growth restriction.American journal of physiology. Endocrinology and metabolism, 310(1). DOI:10.1152/ajpendo.00379.2015. Publication link: 1c358bae-6977-47fd-9190-1a09cc572bd1 | PubMed:26530156



  • Aplin, J. D., Forbes, K., Shah, V. K., Siddals, K., Gibson, J. M., & Westwood, M. (2014). The maternal environment programmes postnatal weight gain and glucose tolerance of male offspring but placental and fetal growth are determined by fetal genotype in the Leprdb/+ model of gestational diabetes.Unknown Journal. . Publication link: 71bc400e-4aec-4b13-8c37-7afce9bad77a
  • Farrokhnia, F., Aplin, J. D., Westwood, M., & Forbes, K. (2014). MicroRNA Regulation of Mitogenic Signaling Networks in the Human Placenta.The Journal of biological chemistry, 289(44). DOI:10.1074/jbc.M114.587295. Publication link: 2dd72229-6f91-4518-bab3-eb4c14d8a561 | PubMed:25077964
  • Jones, C. J. P., Skepper, J. N., Renfree, M. B., & Aplin, J. D. (2014). Trophoblast specialisations during pregnancy in the tammar wallaby, Macropus eugenii: a morphological and lectin histochemical study.Placenta, 35(7). DOI:10.1016/j.placenta.2014.03.018. Publication link: 36b8f0b0-cd18-45f6-a468-b5831d06f923 | PubMed:24768094
  • Junaid, T. O., Brownbill, P., Chalmers, N., Johnstone, E. D., & Aplin, J. D. (2014). Fetoplacental vascular alterations associated with fetal growth restriction. Placenta, 35(10). DOI:10.1016/j.placenta.2014.07.013. Publication link: 40e20fe4-108a-4b59-b25e-aa4dc057f523 | PubMed:25145956
  • Kang, Y. J., Forbes, K., Carver, J., & Aplin, J. D. (2014). The role of the osteopontin-integrin αvβ3 interaction at implantation: Functional analysis using three different in vitro models. Human Reproduction, 29(4), 739-749. DOI:10.1093/humrep/det433. Publication link: d6a12ce7-f001-4f8d-a276-03f46592597d | PubMed:24442579
  • Kang, Y-J., Lees, M., Matthews, L. C., Kimber, S. J., Forbes, K., & Aplin, J. D. (2014). miR-145 suppresses embryo-epithelial juxtacrine communication at implantation by modulating maternal IGF1R.Journal of cell science. DOI:10.1242/jcs.164004. Publication link: d810158c-a569-4d4c-aac0-d5ee9d0f48cf | PubMed:25609710
  • Lui, S., Jones, R. L., Robinson, N. J., Greenwood, S. L., Aplin, J. D., & Tower, C. L. (2014). Detrimental effects of ethanol and its metabolite acetaldehyde, on first trimester human placental cell turnover and function.PLoS ONE, 9(2), [e87328]. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0087328. Publication link: 6b6e5f22-35b6-47dd-9402-5889f9ec4449 | PubMed:24503565
  • Newham, J. J., Wittkowski, A., Hurley, J., Aplin, J. D., & Westwood, M. (2014). Effects of antenatal yoga on maternal anxiety and depression: a randomized controlled trial.Depression and Anxiety, 31(8), 631-640. DOI:10.1002/da.22268. Publication link: 0b1a3119-de42-49fb-a661-eb0b87d8a7f3 | PubMed:24788589
  • Tilbrook, H. E., Hewitt, C. E., Aplin, J. D., Semlyen, A., Trewhela, A., Watt, I., & Torgerson, D. J. (2014). Compliance effects in a randomised controlled trial of yoga for chronic low back pain: a methodological study.Physiotherapy, 100(3), 256-262. DOI:10.1016/ Publication link: 066182c5-9266-4d4e-be33-eebfe2da4521 | PubMed:24530169




  • Aplin, J. D., & Jones, C. J. (2011). Fucose, placental evolution and the glycocode.Unknown Journal. . Publication link: 24b4f9fa-8113-4781-a58a-1e75bc320672
  • Diao, H., Aplin, J. D., Xiao, S., Chun, J., Li, Z., Chen, S., & Ye, X. (2011). Altered spatiotemporal expression of collagen types I, III, IV, and VI in Lpar3-deficient peri-implantation mouse uterus. Biology of Reproduction, 84(2), 255-265. DOI:10.1095/biolreprod.110.086942. Publication link: 0756410e-6f35-4b82-a178-4ab488c2b32b
  • Harris, L. K., Crocker, I. P., Baker, P. N., Aplin, J. D., & Westwood, M. (2011). IGF2 actions on trophoblast in human placenta are regulated by the insulin-like growth factor 2 receptor, which can function as both a signaling and clearance receptor. Biology of Reproduction, 84(3), 440-446. DOI:10.1095/biolreprod.110.088195. Publication link: c596f197-74af-4e41-979e-95621b96442c
  • Jasper, M. J., Care, A. S., Sullivan, B., Ingman, W. V., Aplin, J. D., & Robertson, S. A. (2011). Macrophage-derived LIF and IL1B regulate alpha(1,2)fucosyltransferase 2 (Fut2) expression in mouse uterine epithelial cells during early pregnancy. Biology of Reproduction, 84(1), 179-188. DOI:10.1095/biolreprod.110.085399. Publication link: 9c492eee-79cf-4a07-8581-3fd0e567a225
  • McKay, T. R., Camarasa, M. V., Iskender, B., Ye, J., Bates, N., Miller, D., ... Kimber, S. J. (2011). Human feeder cell line for derivation and culture of hESc/hiPSc. Stem Cell Research, 7(2), 154-162. DOI:10.1016/j.scr.2011.04.005. Publication link: 5baccd4b-8830-4f8c-bd04-9fbe7d8d09d6
  • Salker, M. S., Christian, M., Steel, J. H., Nautiyal, J., Lavery, S., Trew, G., ... Brosens, J. J. (2011). Deregulation of the serum-and glucocorticoid-inducible kinase SGK1 in the endometrium causes reproductive failure. Nature Medicine, 17(11), 1509-1513. DOI:10.1038/nm.2498. Publication link: 193a16d8-016d-4a7f-a931-eb39a2cfd3dc
  • Sood, A., Salih, S., Roh, D., Lacharme-Lora, L., Parry, M., Hardiman, B., ... Case, C. P. (2011). Signalling of DNA damage and cytokines across cell barriers exposed to nanoparticles depends on barrier thickness. Nature Nanotechnology, 6(12), 824-833. DOI:10.1038/nnano.2011.188. Publication link: 0f506e84-837c-4f7f-b7f5-85968512666a | PubMed:22056725
  • Tilbrook, H. E., Cox, H., Hewitt, C. E., Kang'ombe, A. R., Chuang, L. H., Jayakody, S., ... Torgerson, D. J. (2011). Yoga for chronic low back pain: A randomized trial. Annals of Internal Medicine, 155(9), 569-578. . Publication link: 68de9549-f3fd-4083-9000-7ca9a6818b99 | PubMed:22041945


  • Aplin, J. D. (2010). Developmental cell biology of human villous trophoblast: Current research problems. International Journal of Developmental Biology, 54(2-3), 323-329. DOI:10.1387/ijdb.082759ja. Publication link: ba78b4d4-7216-40fa-8416-a4ee4edeb15c
  • Forbes, K., Souquet, B., Garside, R., Aplin, J. D., & Westwood, M. (2010). Transforming growth factor-β (TGFβ) receptors I/II differentially regulate TGFβ1 and IGF-binding protein-3 mitogenic effects in the human placenta. Endocrinology, 151(4), 1723-1731. DOI:10.1210/en.2009-0896. Publication link: b6e51466-c342-43d6-8c86-c2a62ca18aa8 | PubMed:20172969
  • Harris, L. K., Smith, S. D., Keogh, R. J., Jones, R. L., Baker, P. N., Knöfler, M., ... Aplin, J. D. (2010). Trophoblast- and vascular smooth muscle cell-derived MMP-12 mediates elastolysis during uterine spiral artery remodeling. American Journal of Pathology, 177(4), 2103-2115. DOI:10.2353/ajpath.2010.100182. Publication link: acaabcb8-6e15-4428-ae85-55b3ce17e971


  • Anjum, N., Baker, P. N., Robinson, N. J., & Aplin, J. D. (2009). Maternal celiac disease autoantibodies bind directly to syncytiotrophoblast and inhibit placental tissue transglutaminase activity. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, 7, [16]. DOI:10.1186/1477-7827-7-16. Publication link: eb966dde-cc39-403e-a0d3-73d9d654f54c
  • Ball, M., Carmody, M., Wynne, F., Dockery, P., Aigner, A., Cameron, I., ... Moore, T. (2009). Expression of Pleiotrophin and its Receptors in Human Placenta Suggests Roles in Trophoblast Life Cycle and Angiogenesis. Placenta, 30(7), 649-653. DOI:10.1016/j.placenta.2009.05.001. Publication link: 5827da16-6348-44fe-8f63-8aa6a1db4382
  • Ben-Nagi, J., Walker, A., Jurkovic, D., Yazbek, J., & Aplin, J. D. (2009). Effect of cesarean delivery on the endometrium. International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, 106(1), 30-34. DOI:10.1016/j.ijgo.2009.02.019. Publication link: a827696d-ea0a-4fab-a174-16ba2c9dc8d8
  • Chen, C. P., Liu, S. H., Huang, J. P., Aplin, J. D., Wu, Y. H., Chen, P. C., ... Chen, C. Y. (2009). Engraftment potential of human placenta-derived mesenchymal stem cells after in utero transplantation in rats. Human Reproduction, 24(1), 154-165. DOI:10.1093/humrep/den356. Publication link: 72baae38-ca63-4010-a4bf-7edce91f778d
  • Forbes, K., Desforges, M., Garside, R., Aplin, J. D., & Westwood, M. (2009). Methods for siRNA-mediated Reduction of mRNA and Protein Expression in Human Placental Explants, Isolated Primary Cells and Cell Lines. Placenta, 30(2), 124-129. DOI:10.1016/j.placenta.2008.10.003. Publication link: 0cb8d9d3-ca9a-4561-9578-31f727edc9bf
  • Forbes, K., West, G., Garside, R., Aplin, J. D., & Westwood, M. (2009). The protein-tyrosine phosphatase, Src homology-2 domain containing protein tyrosine phosphatase-2, is a crucial mediator of exogenous insulin-like growth factor signaling to human trophoblast. Endocrinology, 150(10), 4744-4754. DOI:10.1210/en.2009-0166. Publication link: 06eae8f2-c649-4e0f-987b-905d6b13c421
  • Singh, H., & Aplin, J. D. (2009). Adhesion molecules in endometrial epithelium: Tissue integrity and embryo implantation. Journal of Anatomy, 215(1), 3-13. DOI:10.1111/j.1469-7580.2008.01034.x. Publication link: 8b8933b6-bae2-45a0-83f5-df8e7018bd4d
  • Smith, S. D., Dunk, C. E., Aplin, J. D., Harris, L. K., & Jones, R. L. (2009). Evidence for immune cell involvement in decidual spiral arteriole remodeling in early human pregnancy. American Journal of Pathology, 174(5), 1959-1971. DOI:10.2353/ajpath.2009.080995. Publication link: 75f526f8-94a5-4ea4-82e6-1fecf5a8ed27



  • Baker, P. N., Jones, C. J. P., Aplin, J. D., & Robinson, N. (2007). A role for tissue transglutaminase in stabilisation of membrane-cytoskeletal particles shed from the human placenta.Biology of Reproduction, Jul 11 2007. . Publication link: 7b2cddc7-e2df-4163-8324-0bff9d0f629d
  • Harris, L. K., & Aplin, J. D. (2007). Vascular remodeling and extracellular matrix breakdown in the uterine spiral arteries during pregnancy.Reproductive Sciences, 14(8), 28-34. . Publication link: 1184f7c1-c215-461c-896a-c3d1b75ed50a
  • Jones, C. J. P., Carter, A. M., Aplin, J. D., & Enders, A. C. (2007). Glycosylation at the fetomaternal interface in hemomonochorial placentae from five widely separated species of mammal: Is there evidence for convergent evolution?. Cells Tissues Organs, 185(4), 269-284. DOI:10.1159/000102175. Publication link: ff5eb0ec-a7fc-4664-b7b4-60dd53b57837 | PubMed:17587801
  • Wareing, M., Aplin, J. D., Harris, L. K., Keogh, R. J., Baker, P. N., Cartwright, J. E., & Whitley, G. J. (2007). BeWo cells induce vascular remodelling via Fas ligand-and matrix metalloproteinase-dependent mechanisms. Human Reproduction, 22(11), 2834-2841. . Publication link: 381a216e-b20a-42ad-855a-0d8db8b3d3de


  • Aplin, J. D. (2006). Embryo implantation: The molecular mechanism remains elusive. Reproductive BioMedicine Online, 13(6), 833-839. [2454]. . Publication link: 9713bbc9-8c1d-4530-a307-9c53c8360bc2
  • Aplin, J. D. (2006). In vitro analysis of trophoblast invasion.Methods in molecular medicine, 122, 45-57. . Publication link: d046e917-3c9f-47a0-86f2-75ee3817667e
  • Ayling, L. J., Whitley, G. S. J., Aplin, J. D., & Cartwright, J. E. (2006). Dimethylarginine dimethylaminohydrolase (DDAH) regulates trophoblast invasion and motility through effects on nitric oxide. Human Reproduction, 21(10), 2530-2537. DOI:10.1093/humrep/del111. Publication link: fc11836d-5886-4cae-af1b-5dc322d5c69e
  • Harris, L. K., Keogh, R. J., Wareing, M., Baker, P. N., Cartwright, J. E., Aplin, J. D., & Whitley, G. S. J. (2006). Invasive trophoblasts stimulate vascular smooth muscle cell apoptosis by a Fas ligand-dependent mechanism. American Journal of Pathology, 169(5), 1863-1874. DOI:10.2353/ajpath.2006.060265. Publication link: b2db4c88-d949-4233-9540-7ec91b162b99


  • Aplin, J. D., Chen, C., Yang, Y., & Su, T. (2005). Hypoxia and transforming growth factor-beta 1 act independently to increase extracellular matrix production by placental fibroblasts.J Clin Endocrinol Metab, 90( 2). . Publication link: b091749a-56c6-4799-a097-2e1aa560d526
  • Miller, A. G., Aplin, J. D., & Westwood, M. (2005). Adenovirally mediated expression of insulin-like growth factors enhances the function of first trimester placental fibroblasts. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 90(1), 379-385. DOI:10.1210/jc.2004-1052. Publication link: 392a255f-6852-4901-9602-ce4e70c3d011 | PubMed:15507507


  • Aplin, J. D., & Kimber, S. J. (2004). Trophoblast-uterine interactions at implantation. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, 2, [48]. DOI:10.1186/1477-7827-2-48. Publication link: c5a21594-e2df-4728-a0b1-b4aa7ac84c43 | PubMed:15236654
  • Aplin, J., Bauer, S., Pollheimer, J., Hatmann, J., Husslein, P., & Knoefler, M. (2004). TNFa inhibits trophoblast migration through elevation of PAL-1: a potential mechanism in the pathogenesis of preeclampsia. J Clin Endocrinol Metab, 89. . Publication link: 51840857-5851-4c79-9cea-d2f799374adc
  • Bauer, S., Pollheimer, J., Hartmann, J., Husslein, P., Aplin, J. D., & Knöfler, M. (2004). Tumor Necrosis Factor-α Inhibits Trophoblast Migration through Elevation of Plasminogen Activator Inhibitor-1 in First-Trimester Villous Explant Cultures. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 89(2), 812-822. DOI:10.1210/jc.2003-031351. Publication link: d8125136-9303-4be4-9eee-abbd362329e0
  • Coppock, H. A., White, A., Aplin, J. D., & Westwood, M. (2004). Matrix metalloprotease-3 and -9 proteolyze insulin-like growth factor-binding protein-1. Biology of Reproduction, 71(2), 438-443. DOI:10.1095/biolreprod.103.023101. Publication link: f48a46fe-7c7c-430d-9a3c-4ce7d6a2be58 | PubMed:15070833



  • Jones, C. J. P., Aplin, J. D., Lacey, H. A., Haigh, T., & Westwood, M. (2002). Mesenchymally derived IGF-I provides a paracrine stimulus for trophoblast migration BMC Developmental Biology. BMC Developmental Biology, 2 (1). . Publication link: 997dffe2-20f6-4e56-ae32-9a9b8ff1af5d


  • Aplin, J. D., Meseguer, M., Caballero-Campo, P., Martin, J. C., Remohi, J., & Simon, C. (2001). Hormonal and embryonic regulation of human endometrial MUC1.Biology of Reproduction, 64. . Publication link: 94d64654-dce3-400b-952c-d1488f3b9faa
  • Meseguer, M., Aplin, J. D., Caballero-Campo, P., O'Connor, J. E., Martín, J. C., Remohí, J., ... Simón, C. (2001). Human endometrial mucin MUC1 is up-regulated by progesterone and down-regulated in vitro by the human blastocyst. Biology of Reproduction, 64(2), 590-601. DOI:10.1095/biolreprod64.2.590. Publication link: 88926ff1-a52f-46be-839f-d0d0fd40327f | PubMed:11159362
  • Westwood, M., Aplin, J. D., Collinge, I. A., Gill, A., White, A., & Gibson, J. M. (2001). α2-macroglobulin: A New Component in the Insulin-like Growth Factor/Insulin-like Growth Factor Binding Protein-1 Axis. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 276(45), 41668-41674. DOI:10.1074/jbc.M102793200. Publication link: 539c2340-1716-488c-8b9b-d96f610f6736 | PubMed:11546760

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