Placenta: the forgotten organ

Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 2015;31:523-52. doi: 10.1146/annurev-cellbio-100814-125620. Epub 2015 Oct 5.


The placenta sits at the interface between the maternal and fetal vascular beds where it mediates nutrient and waste exchange to enable in utero existence. Placental cells (trophoblasts) accomplish this via invading and remodeling the uterine vasculature. Amazingly, despite being of fetal origin, trophoblasts do not trigger a significant maternal immune response. Additionally, they maintain a highly reliable hemostasis in this extremely vascular interface. Decades of research into how the placenta differentiates itself from embryonic tissues to accomplish these and other feats have revealed a previously unappreciated level of complexity with respect to the placenta's cellular composition. Additionally, novel insights with respect to roles played by the placenta in guiding fetal development and metabolism have sparked a renewed interest in understanding the interrelationship between fetal and placental well-being. Here, we present an overview of emerging research in placental biology that highlights these themes and the importance of the placenta to fetal and adult health.

Keywords: development; metabolism; placenta; programming; stem cell; transport.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport / physiology
  • Female
  • Fetal Development / physiology
  • Humans
  • Placenta / physiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Trophoblasts / physiology