New Treatments for Placental Disease
The placenta, which is attached to the mother and connected to the fetus by the umbilical cord, plays a number of important roles in pregnancy. It carries food and oxygen to the baby, sends waste products into the mother’s bloodstream (through which they are then disposed of), and produces hormones that help the fetus develop and the mother stay pregnant.
However, up to 10 per cent of all pregnancies are affected by placental diseases. Chief among these diseases are pre-eclampsia and intra-uterine growth restriction, which affect the health of both the mother and fetus. There are no treatments for these diseases other than premature delivery.
Dr. Brian Cox, Canada Research Chair in Placental Development and Maternal-Fetal Health, is exploring how the placenta is developed and organized, its genetic origins, and how it integrates maternal-fetal communication.
In addition, Cox is developing stem cell-based models in order to examine the origins of placental diseases. He aims to identify changes in gene expression and cell types that occur in placental diseases. His goal is to create mathematical models that will identify the causes of these diseases.
Cox’s research could lead to new treatments for diseases of the placenta, which will, in turn, improve the health of mothers and their babies.