Pregnancy, Placenta, and Preeclampsia

Exploring the human placenta to improve maternal and child health

Dr. Virginia D. Winn headshot

Virginia D. Winn, MD, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Stanford University, the Director of Reproductive, Stem Cell and Perinatal Biology at Stanford School of Medicine's Ob/Gyn department, and the Program Director for the Stanford Women’s Reproductive Health Research (K12) Program. Dr. Winn received both her PhD training and medical education from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry (in 1994 and 1996 respectively.) She completed her residency (Obstetrics and Gynecology) and fellowship (Maternal-Fetal Medicine) at UCSF. She received research training through the NIH-funded Reproductive Scientist Development Program (RSDP) and Women's Reproductive Health Research Program. Dr. Winn was on faculty at University of Colorado and from 2006 to 2014 leading a basic and translational NIH-funded research program. Dr. Winn has been at Stanford since 2014 building the perinatal research and serves in leadership roles both within the Maternal Child and Health Research Institute (MCHRI) and the Dunlevie MFM Center for Discovery, Innovation and Clinical Impact. She is Board Certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and Maternal and Fetal Medicine from the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Her lab seeks to understand the unique biological mechanisms of human placentation. While the placenta itself is one of the key characteristics for defining mammals, the human placenta differs in significant ways from most available animal models: it is one of the most invasive placentas, and results in the formation of an organ comprised of cells from both the fetus and the mother. In addition to this fascinating chimerism, fetal cells are deeply involved in the remodeling of the maternal vasculature in order to redirect large volumes of maternal blood to the placenta to support the developing fetus. As such, the investigation of this human organ covers a large array of biological processes, and deals not only with understanding its endocrine function, but the physiologic process of immune tolerance, vascular remodeling, and cellular invasion.

As a physician scientist, Dr. Winn’s ultimate goal is to see this knowledge translate to improved clinical care resulting in healthier mothers and babies. Her lab uses a combination of molecular, cellular, tissue, and translational studies to uncover human placental biology and how it impacts pregnancy health.

Dr. Winn is a member of the Dunlevie Maternal-Fetal Medicine Center for Discovery, Innovation and Clinical Impact, the Maternal and Child Health Research Institute (MCHRI), the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute (CVI), and BioX. She is a recipient of the MCHRI Arline & Pete Harman Faculty Scholar award, and is currently a H&H Evergreen Scholar.


Post-doc researcher Yanming Wu, PhD was selected for a plenary oral presentation of “A novel in vitro stem cell model to study maternal endothelial function in preeclampsia” at the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine's Annual Pregnancy Meeting (February 6-11).

Visiting research scholar Anna Lebech Kjær was selected for a poster presentation of “Placental Expression of Stanniocalcin 2 (STC2) in Healthy and Preeclamptic Pregnancies” at the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine's Annual Pregnancy Meeting (February 6-11).


Pregnancy as a Window to Health | What Does Pregnancy Tell Us About Future Health? 

Pregnancy has been likened to the “ultimate cardiac stress test.”  Your health during pregnancy can provide significant insight into your risks of developing chronic disease later in life. Join Dr. Virginia D. Winn for a discussion about how pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and high blood pressure can be used as clinical indicators for the development of cardiovascular and other diseases long after your children have left the nest.

Click here to watch the event


Funding and Support

We would like to thank the numerous participants of our studies over the years.  he research conducted by Winn Lab is supported through grants, awards, and funders.

  • Waxman Preeclampsia Fund
  • Arline and Pete Harman
  • H&H Evergreen