The vital role of the placenta in determining pregnancy outcomes and life-long health
Speaker: Amanda Sferruzzi-Perri
Institution: Physiology, Development and Neuroscience Department, Centre for Trophoblast Research, University of Cambridge. United Kingdom.
Place: CIPF conference room
During pregnancy, the fetus requires nutrients supplied by the mother to develop and grow. However, the mother also requires nutrients to maintain her health and help her to support the pregnancy and the subsequent lactation. Failure to appropriately regulate nutrient allocation between the mother and fetus can lead to pregnancy complications, such as abnormal fetal growth and gestational diabetes, with immediate and life-long consequences for maternal and offspring health. The placenta is the main determinant of materno-fetal resource allocation during pregnancy. It supplies all the nutrients and oxygen required for fetal growth and secretes hormones that facilitate maternal allocation of nutrients to the fetus. However, we lack information on how the placenta integrates the various signals in the mother and the fetus to modulate resource allocation during pregnancy and its importance for long-term health.
In this presentation I will describe our findings in mice that explore how the environment of the mother modulates placental phenotype and thus fetal resource supply and growth, via changes in the structure, function and metabolism of the placenta. I will also tell you about our genetic studies in mice that examine the significance of signals in the developing fetus in adapting placental resource allocation during pregnancy. Finally, I will show you our latest work investigating the significance of placental endocrine function in the regulation of maternal resource allocation to the fetus and its implication for pregnancy and long-term health. By understanding the factors regulating placental phenotype and materno-fetal resource allocation, we hope to improve our understanding of the development of pregnancy complications and the subsequent increased risk of poor health in the child and mother after a complicated pregnancy. We also hope to identify targets in the placenta for therapeutic intervention in complicated pregnancies.