National Children’s Study researches placenta clues to children’s health

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Researchers with the National Children’s Study at SDSU are collaborating on a project to determine how to most accurately collect and examine placentas to obtain valuable information that may fuel new discoveries about children’s overall health and development.

The primary goal of the placenta project is to develop standard protocols for collecting, processing, preserving and analyzing placentas so scientists can obtain useful data from these tissues now and in the future. Currently, there is great variability in what happens to the placenta following birth. Improper processing can severely limit the amount of information scientists can acquire from the placental tissue.

Researchers believe what happens in the womb may provide clues as to how a child will fare later in life, and the placenta is a valuable window into what takes place before birth. This type of information may serve to develop predictive tools that will help determine if children are at risk for a variety of health problems. With this knowledge, health care professionals may be able to intervene earlier to optimize children’s growth and development.

The placenta project team will collect more than 600 placentas from mothers enrolled in the NCS at 11 different sites across the country. The University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, N.Y., will serve as the central resource for collecting all placentas that will be analyzed throughout this project.

Investigators will develop methods to assess features of the placenta such as size, shape and thickness, and other attributes that may yield information about how and when disease develops. Genetic material will be extracted from the placenta. And, researchers will also look for environmental contaminants that may help determine which toxins are associated with negative effects on the developing baby.

In addition to SDSU and URMC, researchers from Mt. Sinai Medical School, Columbia University, the University of California at Davis, the University of California at Irvine, the University of Iowa, Wisconsin College of Medicine, the University of Utah, the University of North Carolina, Brown University, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the University of Massachusetts at Boston, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern University and Placental Analytics, LLC of Larchmont, N.Y., are involved in the project.