Role of protein TGF-β in the development of the placenta revealed
The ability of a fertilised egg to not only create a whole life form, but also the placenta, an organ vital to its survival, is mesmerising. For a successful pregnancy, the placenta has many crucial jobs including invading and attaching to the uterus so nutrients can be passed to the embryo. This is called extravillous trophoblast invasion and is done by cells called extravillous trophoblasts (EVTs). If this isn’t done correctly, it can result in miscarriage, early-onset pre-eclampsia or even foetal growth restriction, but what might be controlling this important step was unclear. Researchers have now revealed that a protein called TGF-β plays a key role. By preventing TGF-β signalling (bottom with and without fluorescent markers), EVTs can form structures called lamellipodia, long spindles that are indicative of cell’s moving. EVTs thus become invasive and able to support placental function. Such detailed understanding of this process may inform future treatments for complications of pregnancy.
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