Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton
(023) 8120 8663

Professor Rohan Lewis PhD, BSc(Hons), PGCert FTPS (Fellow of the Physiological Society)

Professor of Placental and Integrative Physiology

Professor Rohan Lewis's photo
Related links
You Tube

Rohan Lewis is Professor in Placental and Integrative Physiology in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Southampton.

By supporting the growth of a healthy baby the placenta helps establish the foundations for lifelong health

Professor Lewis leads the Placental Research Laboratory in Southampton. His team are focused on understanding how placenta supports the growth of a healthy fetus and how placental dysfunction may impact on health across the life course.

The placental research group takes an integrative and interdisciplinary approach to understanding placental function. This involves integrating laboratory studies of transport and metabolism with 3D imaging and computational modelling. This work involves interdisciplinary collaborations with the Engineering, Maths and Physics. This seeks to both understand the mechanisms underlying specific placental functions and how these mechanisms interact to form a functioning placenta and produce a healthy baby.

We are also involved with population studies including the Southampton Women’s Survey and the Mavidos study to understand how environment affects the placental and how placental function affects health in postnatal life.


BSc in Biochemistry, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
BSc Hons. in Biochemistry, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, 1993
PhD, Department of Paediatrics, University of Auckland, New Zealand, 1997
PG Cert in Academic Practice (Education), University of Southampton, UK. 2007

Appointments held

Research Associate, Department of Clinical Biochemistry, University of Cambridge 1998-2000
Research Fellow, School of Medicine, University of Southampton 2000-2005
Lecturer in Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton
Reader in Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton, 2012-2017


Research interests

Computational Modelling of Placental Function

In order to understand why some babies grow poorly in the womb, we need to understand how the different factors underlying placental function work together as a system. While we have a good understanding, in principle, of the mechanisms which transport nutrients, hormones and drugs across biological membranes this does not allow us to predict how these mechanisms work together to transfer these substances across the placenta. This work has been funded by the BBSRC, MRC and EU and provided insight into the transfer of amino acids, fatty acids, cortisol and pharmaceutical drugs.

Three-dimensional imaging

New imaging techniques are allowing us to image the placenta in 3D across a wide range of scales. These include microCT and serial block face scanning electron microscopy. This work has uncovered a range of novel structures in the human placenta and we know have The Leverhulme Trust project applying these techniques to study comparative placentology. This work will help identify fundamental structure function relationships and better understand the evolutionary pressures on the placenta. Mismatch between past environment (more likely to be nutrient poor) and current environments (more likely to be nutrient rich) may help explain why the placenta does not always optimally support the growth of the fetus.

Mechanisms and Regulation of Placental Nutrient Transport

The first step in understanding how placental nutrient transfer regulates fetal growth is to determine the mechanisms underlying placental function. The Placental Research Group in Southampton has made significant progress in this area, particularly in explaining how amino acids are transferred across the placenta. We are currently expanding our understanding of these mechanisms and investigating how those we have already identified are regulated at the cellular level.

Maternal Environment and Placental Function

Maternal environment may be an important determinant of placental function. This area is of particular interest as environmental factors may be able to be modified to improve placental function and fetal growth. Working with placentas collected from the Southampton Women’s Survey this research has suggested that maternal body composition and maternal pre-pregnancy smoking influence placental function.


Human Development and Health

Affiliate Department(s)

Human Development and Physiology

Research project(s)

Mathematical modelling of fatty acid transport in the human placenta

Postgraduate student supervision


Victoria Cracknell 2019- Medicine, Main supervisor
Jennifer Pearson Far 2017- Medicine, Second supervisor
Laura Cooke, 2019- Medicine, Secondary supervisor


Dr Priscilla Day, 2007-2012, Main supervisor
Dr Emma Field, 2010-2013, Main supervisor
Dr Nont Panitchob, 2011-2015 Engineering, Second supervisor
Dr Mildrey Mosquera, 2012-2015 Medicine, Main supervisor
Dr Simone Perazzolo, 2013-Engineering, Second supervisor
Dr Eleni Palaiologou, 2015-2019, Medicine, Main supervisor
Ashley Brogan, 2015-2019 Medicine, Second supervisor

Other responsibilities

External examining: MVST IB Human Reproduction at the University of Cambridge.
International Federation of Placenta Associations (IFPA) Awards Committee, 2019 -

Sort via:TypeorYear


Book Chapters


Journal Special Issue


2019 – Deputy lead for the BBSRC SoCoBio Doctoral training programme

2013-2017, BM4 year 2 assessment coordinator

2013-2017, BM4 year 2 foundations of medicine module coordinator

2005-2013, BM4 Semester 3 coordinator

Professor Rohan Lewis
Faculty of Medicine
University of Southampton
IDS Building
Mailpoint 887 Southampton General Hospital
Tremona Road
 Southampton SO16 6YD

Room Number: SGH/IDS/MP887

Telephone:(023) 8120 8663

Share this profile Share this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Share this on Weibo
Privacy Settings