Prenatal development determines health throughout life, and the placenta plays a critical role in supplying the fetus with nutrients and oxygen. Carefully regulated interactions between the placenta and the lining of the mother’s uterus are crucial to normal placental development and a healthy pregnancy. Abnormalities in these interactions very early in pregnancy can lead to miscarriage or to complications that are not apparent until months later, when they may threaten the lives of the fetus and the mother. Understanding the etiology of such placental complications could facilitate monitoring and preventative treatment.
Various diseases of pregnancy are associated with unusual maternal blood levels of proteins of the insulin-like growth factor pathway, but the mechanisms responsible for these associations are unknown. I am examining the roles that these proteins play in the regulation of the early growth and development of the placenta.