Surbek & Schoeberlein Lab

The Surbek & Schoeberlein group of Prenatal Medicine, DBMR / University Hospital Bern, has its research focus on Hypertensive Disorders in Pregnancy (HDP), including preeclampsia.


We study the molecular pathway in preeclampsia, including the role of angiogenic factors and the molecular mechanisms of placental disease. Furthermore, the role of specific transport mechanisms in the placenta in preeclampsia is analyzed, and potential diagnostic/predictive and therapeutic approaches are being assessed in cell culture and transgenic animal models.

Cell-free DNA analysis in maternal blood in hypertensive disorders of pregnancy

Cell-free (cf) DNA and RNA in maternal blood originating from maternal, placental, and fetal cells are being assessed for diagnostic purposes in obstetric, placental, and fetal disorders, primarily preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. We use NGS approaches in collaboration with the interfaculty NGS platform of the University of Bern. cfDNA levels, subfractions (fetal/maternal/placental cfDNA) or methylation state are potential biomarkers of HDP, linking the maternal cardiovascular system to placental disease.

COVID-19 & pregnancy and preeclampsia

Pregnant women are at risk for a more severe course of the disease related to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection and adverse neonatal outcomes, including stillbirth. This project investigates the role of COVID-19 in placental disease and its consequences for pregnancy complications such as premature birth, preeclampsia and fetal death. Viral infection is examined in vaginal fluid, placenta, fetal membranes, and umbilical cord blood and correlated with maternal and fetal clinical outcomes. Molecular-level placental analysis for SARS-CoV-2 and its derivatives are being used to investigate basic mechanisms of placental COVID-19.

The reasearch is supported by the following institutions: Swiss National Science Foundation, Research Fund of the University Hospital Bern / Inselspital, and other foundations.