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
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