Pregnancy is stressful, and we don't mean decisions about decorating the nursery. Growing a baby places a big stress on a woman's body. This is especially felt in her blood system, which has to work hard supplying blood to the placenta – the interface between a developing foetus and its mother's womb. Problems with maternal spiral arteries that supply blood to the placenta causes a life-threatening condition called pre-eclampsia, which kills thousands of women annually and leads to babies being born too small. By studying pregnant mice, scientists have discovered that a molecule called galectin-1 plays a vital role in growing maternal blood vessels during early pregnancy. The mother of the foetus on the right was treated with a chemical that blocks galectin-1 and shows the signs of pre-eclampsia, unlike the normal one on the left. This work could be crucial for helping prevent the condition in human mothers in future.
Written by Kat Arney
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.