The placenta saves unborn babies from starvation

The placenta has long been thought of as a passive organ that simply enables a fetus to take up nutrients from its mother. But new research in mice shows that when calories are restricted, the placenta steps up to the plate – actively sacrificing itself to protect the fetal brain from damage.

Researchers examined what happened to 10 fetuses from 8 mice when their pregnant mothers were deprived of food for 24 hours – as might happen in the wild — about mid-way through gestation. This point in pregnancy is critical in the development of the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that controls primal urges, including maternal instincts.

Behavioural neuroscientists found that the placenta responded by breaking down its own tissues, recycling proteins inside its cells to provide a steady supply of nutrients to the developing hypothalamus despite the mother’s interrupted food intake. Learn more here.

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One Response to “The placenta saves unborn babies from starvation”

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