Research may help scientists understand what causes pregnancy complications.
Dr. Hanna Mikkola and researchers at UCLA’s Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research have identified a specific type of cell and a related cell communication pathway that are key to the successful growth of a healthy placenta. The findings could greatly bolster our knowledge about the potential causes of complications during pregnancy.
Specifically, the findings could help scientists clarify the particular order in which progenitor cells grow in the placenta, which would allow researchers to track fetal development and identify complications. Progenitor cells are cells that develop into other cells and that initiate growth of the placenta.
The study was led by Mikkola, associate professor of molecular, cell, and developmental biology, and Dr. Masaya Ueno, a UCLA postdoctoral fellow. It was published online by the scientific journal Developmental Cell on Nov. 25 and will appear later in the journal’s print edition.
The placenta is the organ that forms inside the uterus during pregnancy and enables oxygen and nutrients to reach the fetus, but little is understood about the biological mechanisms and cellular processes responsible for this interface. Studying mouse models, Mikkola and her colleagues tracked individual cells in the placenta to determine which cells and which cell communication routes, or signaling pathways, were responsible for the healthy development of the placenta.
The UCLA team was the first to identify the cells that form the placenta: Epcamhi labyrinth trophoblast progenitors, or LaTP cells, can become the various cells necessary to form a specific tissue, in this case the placenta.