Three-dimensional morphological analysis of placental terminal villi

Romina Plitman Mayo, Yassen Abbas, D. Stephen Charnock-Jones, Graham J. Burton, Gil Marom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Transport of nutrients and waste between the maternal and fetal circulations during pregnancy takes place at the final branches of the placental villous trees. Therefore, and unsurprisingly, pregnancy complications have been related to the maldevelopment of terminal villi. However, a deep analysis of placental villous morphology has been limited by tissue processing and imaging techniques. In this proof-of-principle study, placental lobules were fixed by perfusion and small clumps of villi were stained, sectioned optically and reconstructed. Morphological and network analyses were suggested and demonstrated on samples of normal placentas. The results show that most parameters are almost constant within a placenta but that there exists an inter-individual variation. Network analysis suggests that the feto-placental capillary network has several paths within an individual villus, serving as an efficient transport system. Three-dimensional reconstruction from confocal laser scanning microscopy images is a potent technique able to quantify placental architecture and capture the significant irregularities in vessel diameter and membrane thickness. This approach has the potential to become a powerful tool to further our understanding of the differences in placental structure which may underlie pregnancy complications.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20190037
JournalInterface Focus
Issue number5
StatePublished - 6 Oct 2019


  • Confocal laser scanning microscopy
  • Morphology
  • Placenta
  • Terminal villi
  • Three-dimensional reconstruction


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