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Placenta. 2012 Feb;33 Suppl:S48-54. doi: 10.1016/j.placenta.2011.12.006. Epub 2012 Jan 2.

Review: Does size matter? Placental debris and the pathophysiology of pre-eclampsia.

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  • 1Nuffield Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Oxford, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, UK.


A variety of 'debris' is shed from the syncytial surface of the human placenta ranging from large deported multinuclear fragments to sub-cellular components. It is increasingly clear that at least some of this material has signalling functions. Many categories of circulating debris are increased in pre-eclampsia, and exhibit proteins that are pro-inflammatory and could contribute to the systemic inflammatory response in normal pregnancy, which is exaggerated in pre-eclampsia. It is now evident that there is a large 'hidden' population of microvesicles and nanovesicles (including exosomes) which are hard to investigate because of their size. We have used a new technology, nanoparticle tracking analysis, to measure the size and concentration of syncytiotrophoblast vesicles prepared by placental perfusion. The vesicles range in size from 50 nm to 1 μm with the majority being <500 nm (which includes both exosomes and microvesicles). We speculate whether changes not only in the numbers, but also in the size (beneficial syncytiotrophoblast exosomes and harmful microvesicles) might be important in the maternal syndrome of pre-eclampsia.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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