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How the placenta and the fetus engage in regulated communication during pregnancy

last modified Jul 01, 2019 01:29 PM
Study by Amanda Sferruzzi-Perri's lab, published in eLIFE, shows how the placenta and the fetus engage in a two-way communication during pregnancy, suggesting that faulty signalling can cause growth restriction

The placenta is often thought as a part of the pregnant mother during pregnancy, but it’s actually a separate organ that develops with the fetus, acting as a boundary between the two.

In this study, the Sferruzzi-Perri lab was able to determine that the fetus sends signals directing to the placenta, which in turn responds by increasing the amount of nutrients from the mother. Using a mouse model, the group was able to detect a two-way feedback loop between fetus and placenta, which can explain why placental defects or incorrect signalling can cause growth restriction in the fetus. Fetal growth restriction affects 5-8% of pregnancies in the UK (representing 56,000 births each year). It can lead to immediate and life-long consequences for the health and life of the baby.

Pregnancy is seen as a process between mother and fetus, but the placenta is heavily involved, despite its role in signalling being poorly understood. A better understanding of how fetus and placenta communicate can lead to targeted therapies on the placenta itself without acting on the fetus or the mother – with the placenta being disposed at the end of pregnancy, this would potentially decrease the side effects of medication on mother and child.

Reference: Jorge Lopez-Tello et al, Fetal and trophoblast PI3K p110α have distinct roles in regulating resource supply to the growing fetus in mice, eLIFE