NIH awards $46 million for research for Human Placenta ProjectSeptember 28, 2015
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded $46 million for research for the Human Placenta Project, an initiative to revolutionize understanding of the placenta.
The awards will fund technology development and testing to assess placental function throughout pregnancy, with the ultimate goal of improving pregnancy outcomes and lifelong health.
Catherine Spong, M.D., deputy director of NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which is leading the initiative, said:
“People usually take the placenta for granted. But when it doesn’t work the way it should, it can put the entire pregnancy at risk—along with the health of mother and fetus.”
The placenta is a critical organ that shuttles blood, oxygen, and nutrients from mother to fetus and clears harmful waste like carbon dioxide. It also produces hormones to help sustain the pregnancy and regulate the immune system so that mother and fetus can coexist.
Many problems of pregnancy — such as preeclampsia, preterm birth, and even stillbirth — can occur because of problems with the placenta. If researchers can develop tools to monitor the placenta from the earliest stages of pregnancy, physicians may one day be able to identify problems sooner and intervene more quickly.
“As essential as it is, there’s still so much we don’t know about the placenta,” said Dr. Spong.
“The good news is that science has advanced to such a degree that we have a better opportunity than ever before to learn how the placenta works. That knowledge may one day help improve clinical care.”
NIH has funded 19 projects, totaling approximately $46 million in this fiscal year. The awards will support development of safe, noninvasive methods to monitor the placenta in real time, throughout all stages of pregnancy. The funds also will support research on environmental factors that may affect placental function.