There are two key players that build a healthy baby. One is the developing foetus, created from stem cells that divide and specialise to make all the tissues of the body. But there’s another essential part of the team that’s often overlooked: the placenta. Acting as the interface between mother and foetus, the placenta is a network of blood vessels that provide oxygen and nutrients – the bright green layer in this image highlights the barrier between the maternal and foetal blood systems inside a healthy mouse placenta. Over the years, scientists have found many genetic alterations that affect the developing foetus and lead to pregnancy loss. But a new study in mice shows that the majority of these changes actually affect the formation of the placenta, not the foetus itself, suggesting that researchers need to focus more attention on this overlooked organ to understand what happens when human pregnancies fail.
Written by Kat Arney
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