The Placenta Blog

New research from Yale University suggests an often deadly pregnancy disease, pre-eclampsia, stems from a battle in the womb between a father’s biological goal to make the biggest, healthiest baby possible, and the mother’s need to survive giving birth. Nature has it’s wisdom of making a baby big enough to thrive yet small enough to leave the birth canal. The Yale researchers developed a new theory¬† that keeps these very different goals in balance with each other. The findings are published in the October 11, 2011 online issue of Reproductive Sciences.

The placenta is made up of trophoblast cells that come from the father. The battle begins when the placenta’s trophoblast cells invade the mother’s tissues and destroy the walls of her blood vessels in order to get more blood flowing to the placenta. This allows the most blood possible to enter the placenta, resulting in a bigger baby. The mother’s own “soldiers” called lymphocytes are always looking to destroy these invasive trophoblast cells. The placenta appears trick the mother from attacking this trophoblast movement by secreting a protein called placental protein 13 (PP13). The PP13 diversion is created when the placenta secretes it into her blood where it travels through her veins into her uterus below the placenta. PP13 then leaves the veins where it triggers the mother’s immune system to react and attack. The entire area around these veins becomes a mass of inflammation and dead cells, called necrosis. Then mother’s lymphocytes are distracted long enough for the trophoblasts to get blood to the placenta.

The theory that Dr. Harvey J. Kliman, lead author of the study, suggests is when for whatever reason, the mother’s body doesn’t fall for the diversion, preeclampsia can occur.

And to quote Dr. Kilman describing this new research, “I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty magical.”¬† Yes, pretty magical.

Written By Elenya Grafals, CPM, LMT, CPES

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