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The placenta plays a crucial role in regulating oxygen and nutrients as it transports to babies during pregnancy. Advanced researches have focused on analyzing placenta during challenging pregnancies on the amount of oxygen and nutrients it carries to the baby.
The placenta is the least understood organ among all the human organs. Its ability to function is vital as it impacts on pregnancy outcomes and the lifelong health of a mother and her child. During pregnancy, it develops and serves as the lungs, kidneys, gut, and liver for growing babies, while carrying oxygen and nutrients to the fetus while secreting hormones and discarding waste.
Dr. Amanda N Sferruzzi-Perri, a research associate at St John’s College in the University of Cambridge, has researched on analyzing small parts of the placental cells called mitochondria. Mitochondria are the energy powerhouses of most cells in the body and uses oxygen to convert sugars and fat into energy.
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The study was to analyze how the mitochondria in placenta would alter their function to support the demands of the placenta and the rapidly growing fetus while a healthy pregnancy, including when a less desirable environment challenges the mother.
In the conditions, where a pregnant woman is living in high altitude or low oxygen areas and not consuming a healthy diet may develop specific problems, like miscarriage, preeclampsia, and fetal growth restriction. Increased risks of babies that are born with cerebral palsy, behavioral and developmental issues, neurological disorders, and chronic diseases later develop heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
The fetal growth restriction has a tremendous impact on the health of babies because organs and tissues like the heart, pancreas, muscles, and liver are susceptible when they are developing in the womb. Mitochondria is a highly significant determinant of placental function and supports fetal growth.
Sferruzzi-Perri targeted mitochondria in the placenta to alter its function and improve pregnancy success in women. However, the new findings may lead to tests to decide whether the placenta is functioning correctly and eventually provide treatments to both mother and fetus where placental functions can be restored to give a healthy pregnancy outcome.