The placenta is attached to the wall of the womb in pregnant women and is responsible for the blood supply and delivery of nutrients to the unborn baby. Once the placenta is born along with the child, it is no longer functional and is generally disposed of. Currently the techniques available to study the placenta over the course of a pregnancy are very limited – for example, ultrasound, which only shows a restricted view of the placenta. As a result, little is known about this vital organ and problems with the placenta can be difficult to identify. Researchers now propose using new imaging techniques to monitor the placenta in real time. Fluorescent molecules injected into the bloodstream of the mother, would cross over pass into the placenta, highlighting it on a scan – part of a placenta is (pictured). This could be used as a way to monitor foetal health in the future.
Written by Helen Thomas
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