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Horm Res. 2009;72(5):257-65. doi: 10.1159/000245927. Epub 2009 Oct 19.

Endocrine regulation of feto-placental growth.

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Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience, University of Cambridge, Physiology Building Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EG, UK.


Hormones are both growth stimulatory and growth inhibitory in utero. They regulate tissue growth and development by controlling the rates of cell proliferation, apoptosis and differentiation in many fetal tissues. They also signal the level of resources available for intrauterine growth to the fetal tissues and relay back to the placenta the degree of mismatch between the actual fetal nutrient supply and the fetal nutrient demands for growth. They affect intrauterine growth by anabolic and catabolic actions on fetal metabolism and by altering the nutrient transfer capacity and endocrine function of the placenta. By modifying the fetal growth trajectory, hormones have a central role in programming development in utero and in determining the phenotypic outcome of changes in feto-placental growth during adverse intrauterine conditions. This review examines the role of hormones in feto-placental growth with particular emphasis on insulin, the insulin-like growth factors and glucocorticoids.

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