PLACENTAL STEREOLOGY: SPANNING THE LEVELS FROM MOLECULE TO WHOLE ORGAN

Terry M Mayhew

Abstract

Stereology can provide hard (functionally-relevant) quantitative information at different levels of 3D structural organization. My researches have applied established methods to study organ function and developed novel methods to study subcellular localization of marker probes. We have studied whole-organ function (passive diffusion) in the human placenta and quantified various processes at tissue and subcellular levels and in normal and complicated pregnancies. Fetoplacental angiogenesis and villous growth and maturation involve phased changes particularly around mid-gestation. Growth is associated with increased numbers of cells or nuclei and counts have shown that villous trophoblast continuously renews itself via cytotrophoblast (CT) proliferation and recruitment and syncytiotrophoblast (ST) differentiation and extrusion. Integration of these processes results in changes in total oxygen (O2) diffusive conductance which match the growing fetal mass. Similar processes occur during development of the mouse placenta and at least some are compromised in human pregnancies. For example: [a] in pure pre-eclampsia (PE), villous and fetoplacental vascular volumes and surfaces are similar to those seen in uncomplicated pregnancies but reduced in pure intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) and in PE+IUGR; [b] trophoblast extrusion is accelerated in PE and IUGR but the latter exhibits reduced CT proliferation and this perturbed steady state leads to smaller trophoblast volumes and surfaces; [c] O2 diffusive conductances alter in various pregnancy complications, including IUGR and PE+IUGR; [d] fetal weight is diminished, but diffusive transport increases, in placentas from mice exposed to urban air pollution. Finally, innovations in quantitative immunoelectron microscopy (immunoEM) have produced a portfolio of methods for revealing non-random distributions of marker gold particles in different cellular compartments and for testing whether patterns shift following experimental manipulation. Recently, the methods have been extended to study tissue and cellular distributions of nanoparticles.

Keywords
functional morphology; immunoEM; molecule; organ; placenta; stereology

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DOI: 10.5566/ias.v28.p121-127

Image Analysis & Stereology
EISSN 1854-5165 (Electronic version)
ISSN 1580-3139 (Printed version)