Placental strategies supporting fetal growth during normal and suboptimal gestational environments
The placenta is essential for mammalian development and a key determinant of life-long offspring health. It is responsible for transporting all the nutrients and oxygen a fetus needs to develop and grow and secretes hormones that adapt maternal physiology to support the pregnancy. However, the placenta is not a static organ. In this talk I will present our work undertaken in experimental models showing that placental formation and function adapts developmentally to the needs of the growing fetus during normal gestation, as well as in response to suboptimal gestational environments, namely obesity and hypoxia. Impairments in placental formation and function have consequences for fetal growth and birthweight, which in turn, dictate perinatal survival and risk of non-communicable diseases in later postnatal life. Thus, identifying how the placenta responds and adapts to developmental and environmental cues may be informative for the design of strategies to optimise pregnancy and long-term health outcomes.