Role of placenta in preeclampsia

Leslie Myatt
Endocrine 2002, 19 (1): 103-11
Preeclampsia, which manifests itself as hypertension, proteinuria, and edema in pregnancy, requires the presence of trophoblast tissue but not a fetus. It is characterized by abnormal trophoblast invasion of the spiral arteries of the decidua and myometrium leading to a failure to establish an adequate uteroplacental blood flow and, therefore, is thought to give rise to relatively hypoxic trophoblast tissue. This, in turn, may promote an exaggerated state of oxidative stress in the placenta. This hypoxia/oxidative stress may then further attenuate trophoblast invasion but also alters placental villous angiogenesis leading to a poorly developed fetoplacental vasculature with abnormal reactivity. Oxidative stress per se may also affect vascular reactivity, blood flow, and oxygen and nutrient delivery to the fetus, which ultimately may be compromised. The synthetic and transport functions of the syncytiotrophoblast may also be altered, and there is an increased rate of trophoblast apoptosis. The linkage among abnormal trophoblast invasion, trophoblast dysfunction, and the maternal disease remains unidentified. The presumptive humoral factor that is released by the preeclamptic placenta to cause maternal disease remains elusive. Current therapies to prevent preeclampsia aim toward preventing the maternal syndrome, not preventing the primary pathophysiology.

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