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Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2012 May 15;302(9):E1142-52. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00003.2012. Epub 2012 Feb 28.

Pomegranate juice and punicalagin attenuate oxidative stress and apoptosis in human placenta and in human placental trophoblasts.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.


The human placenta is key to pregnancy outcome, and the elevated oxidative stress present in many complicated pregnancies contributes to placental dysfunction and suboptimal pregnancy outcomes. We tested the hypothesis that pomegranate juice, which is rich in polyphenolic antioxidants, limits placental trophoblast injury in vivo and in vitro. Pregnant women with singleton pregnancies were randomized at 35∼38 wk gestation to 8 oz/day of pomegranate juice or apple juice (placebo) until the time of delivery. Placental tissues from 12 patients (4 in the pomegranate group and 8 in the control group) were collected for analysis of oxidative stress. The preliminary in vivo results were extended to oxidative stress and cell death assays in vitro. Placental explants and cultured primary human trophoblasts were exposed to pomegranate juice or glucose (control) under defined oxygen tensions and chemical stimuli. We found decreased oxidative stress in term human placentas from women who labored after prenatal ingestion of pomegranate juice compared with apple juice as control. Moreover, pomegranate juice reduced in vitro oxidative stress, apoptosis, and global cell death in term villous explants and primary trophoblast cultures exposed to hypoxia, the hypoxia mimetic cobalt chloride, and the kinase inhibitor staurosporine. Punicalagin, but not ellagic acid, both prominent polyphenols in pomegranate juice, reduced oxidative stress and stimulus-induced apoptosis in cultured syncytiotrophoblasts. We conclude that pomegranate juice reduces placental oxidative stress in vivo and in vitro while limiting stimulus-induced death of human trophoblasts in culture. The polyphenol punicalagin mimics this protective effect. We speculate that antenatal intake of pomegranate may limit placental injury and thereby may confer protection to the exposed fetus.

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