Our previous work suggests that stressors that impact placental vascular growth result in a deformed chorionic surface shape, which reflects an abnormal placental three-dimensional shape. We propose to use variability of placental disk thickness as a reflector of deviations in placental vascular growth at the finer level of the fetal stems. We hypothesize that increased variability of thickness is associated with abnormal chorionic surface shape, but will be a predictor of reduced placental functional efficiency (smaller baby for a given placental weight) independent of shape. These measures may shed light on the mechanisms linking placental growth to risk of adult disease. The sample was drawn from the Pregnancy, Infection and Nutrition Study. In all, 94.6% of the cohort consented to placental examination. Of the 1023 delivered at term, those previously sectioned by the Pathology Department were excluded, leaving 587 (57%) cases with intact placentas that were sliced and photographed. The chorionic surface shape and the shape of a central randomly oriented placental slice were analyzed and measures were compared using correlation. Lower mean placental disk thickness and more variable disk thickness were each strongly and significantly correlated with deformed chorionic plate shapes. More variable disk thickness was strongly correlated with reduced placental efficiency independent of abnormal chorionic surface shape. Variability of placental disk thickness, simple to measure in a single randomly oriented central slice, may be an easily acquired measure that is an independent indicator of lowered placental efficiency, which may in turn program the infant and result in increased risk for development of adult diseases.
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