Indexed on: 12 Jan '10Published on: 12 Jan '10Published in: Placenta
This review considers the hypothesis that adaptations in blood flow, exchange surface area and transporter activity enable placental supply capacity to meet fetal demand and cause alterations in fetal composition which result in life-long programming of homeostatic set points. We consider the components of placental supply capacity and describe the predominant changes each of these could impose on solute and water exchange across the placenta. We next consider the evidence that adaptations in placental nutrient supply to meet the demands of fetal growth and development do occur. Evidence from human and mouse studies suggests that adaptations occur in regulation of blood flow through the fetoplacental circulation, in exchange barrier surface area and in transporter-mediated processes for amino acids and calcium. Crucially there appear to be differences in the gestational timing of these adaptations. Finally we suggest that each of these adaptations could have separate effects on the composition of the fetus. These could affect physiological set points in different ways and so programme the lifetime responses of the individual.