The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2015)

Placentergetics: exploring placental investment in fetal somatic and brain development


1Women, Children, and Family Health Science, University of Illinois at Chicago, 2Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, 3Psychology, Trinity University, 4Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago

March 26, 2015 9:45, Grand Ballroom D Add to calendar

The placenta is responsible for delivering glucose and other nutrients from maternal circulation to the fetus, with particularly implications for the development of the primate brain. A series of 50 vervet monkey (Chlorocebus sabaeus) placentas from the St. Kitts Biomedical Research Foundation was characterized in terms of microscopic morphology and shifts in efficiency across the latter half of a species-typical 167-day gestation, divided into period 1 (d. 83-130) and period 2 (d. 131-159). Architecture was analyzed via stereology. Both fetal and placental mass increased significantly with gestational age (Pearson’s correlations: R=0.85, P<0.00001; R=0.64, P<0.00001, respectively) though relative placental mass decreased. However, the surface area of the placental villi – the site of nutrient transport from mother to fetus – increased significantly between the two time periods, both in terms of volume (T-test: T=-4.49, P<0.00001) and surface area (T-test: T=-5.33, P<0.00001). These changes suggest there is an important shift in the metabolic capacity of the placenta, via an expansion of the microscopic surface area of the villi to support the energetic burden of late gestation brain and somatic growth. Preliminary data regarding analyses of placental glucose receptor 1 (GLUT1) production, as well as magnetic resonance imaging of the fetal brains themselves to track the development of cerebral cortex and the corpus callosum relative to placental characteristics across gestation will also be discussed. A better understanding of how the placenta drives and constrains fetal and brain growth in anthropoid primates is directly relevant to developmental models of the metabolic processes underlying human brain evolution.

American Society of Primatologists Legacy Award (Rutherford); K12HD055892, NIH Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH)