Targeting the placenta to improve health outcomes of the baby

Barry Doyle, Yutthapong Tongpob, Nik Bappoo

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Significance for Western Australia: Improving pregnancy outcome and child health.
Background: A healthy environment during pregnancy is a powerful determinant of our health as an adult. Driving this relationship is the placenta, an organ unique to pregnancy which provides nutrients to the fetus and sends signals to the mother’s body to make the necessary adaptions for pregnancy. The placenta can respond to the environment and make adjustments to help the fetus continue to develop and grow. However, if placental function is compromised this can reduce fetal growth and lead to stillbirth and morbidity, including increased cardiovascular and mental health diseases in later life. Unfortunately, our ability to diagnose fetal growth restriction during pregnancy is limited. We are studying whether blood vessel structure in the placenta can be a diagnostic and therapeutic target for pregnancy complications such as fetal growth restriction.
Aims / Objectives: To investigate placental blood vessel structure in rodent models of fetal growth restriction and assess how this affects placental blood flow dynamics, placental function nutrient transport and fetal organ development.
Methods: Placentas are taken across pregnancy from rodents and the blood vessels are imaged in three dimensions using CT scans. MRI scans are also conducted to measure placental oxygen levels. We then computationally assess how the structure of the placental blood vessels correspond with fetal growth outcomes. We are also using computational fluid dynamics to understand how blood flows through placental blood vessels and whether the outcomes can be used as a diagnostic marker for fetal growth restriction.
Results: Placental blood vessel structure is severely compromised in our rodent models of fetal growth restriction at the end of pregnancy. This change in blood vessel structure aligns with MRI assessments of reduced blood oxygenation. Furthermore, the modelling work shows some interesting changes in blood flow indices which have potential for diagnostic development.
Conclusions/Outcomes: Placental blood vessel structure is a strong indicator of placental function and fetal growth outcomes. We are currently investigating the blood vessel structure of term human placentas to see if the information from our experimental models can be extrapolated to human in order to enhance health outcomes of babies.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 13 Aug 2019
EventThe Australian Society for Medical Research WA : Science Lands in Parliament event - The Aboriginal People’s Gallery, Parliament House of Western Australia, Perth, Australia
Duration: 13 Aug 201913 Aug 2019


OtherThe Australian Society for Medical Research WA
Abbreviated titleASMR
OtherAbstracts are now open for Science Lands in Parliament, a unique opportunity to showcase your research to WA Parliamentarians.
This event, hosted by the Hon. Roger Cook MLA, Minister for Health and Mental Health, is in the Aboriginal People’s Gallery, Parliament House of Western Australia.
If you are scientifically or clinically qualified, 5-15 years post-PhD or equivalent (awarded 2004-2016) and conduct medically-related research in Western Australia, you are invited to submit an abstract for this event.
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