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Mol Cell Endocrinol. 1998 May 25;140(1-2):115-20.

Fetal growth and placental function.

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Research Centre for Developmental Medicine and Biology, Department of Paediatrics, University of Auckland, New Zealand.


Fetal growth is largely determined by the availability of nutrients to the fetus. The fetus is at the end of a supply line that ensures delivery of nutrients from the maternal/uterine circulation to the fetus via the placenta. However, this supply line can not be regarded as a linear relationship. Maternal undernutrition will not only reduce global nutrient availability but will also influence the maternal and fetal somatotrophic axis. Both endocrine systems react in a very similar way to limited substrate supply. The hormones of the fetal somatotrophic axis, and in particular insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-1, are important regulators of fetal growth. Placental function is pivotal to materno-fetal nutrient and metabolite transfer. Placental function in turn, is heavily influenced by the maternal and fetal growth hormone (GH)-IGF-1 system. The placenta itself is also an active endocrine organ and it produces a large number of hormones including GH and IGF-1 as well their corresponding receptors. Thus the placenta can no longer be considered merely a passive conduit for fetal nutrition. Rather, it is actively involved in the integration of nutritional and endocrine signals from the maternal and fetal somatotrophic axes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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