Review: placental biomarkers for assessing fetal health

Hum Mol Genet. 2017 Oct 1;26(R2):R237-R245. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddx210.


The placenta is a multifunctional organ that regulates key aspects of pregnancy maintenance and fetal development. As the placenta is in direct contact with maternal blood, cellular products (DNA, RNA, proteins, etc.) from the placenta can enter maternal circulation by a variety of ways. The application of serum proteins and circulating placental derived DNA has been well demonstrated for the diagnosis of aneuploidy, and there is great interest in exploring the use of placental biomarkers for the prediction of a range of fetal health parameters. In this review, we discuss how placental biomarkers might be used for the diagnosis and early detection of preeclampsia, fetal growth restriction and inflammation associated with preterm birth. We emphasize how increased understanding of the underlying placental biology can aid in the interpretation of such approaches and development of new biomarkers that can help predict the onset of pregnancy and neonatal health concerns before they manifest.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / blood*
  • Female
  • Fetal Development / genetics
  • Fetal Development / physiology
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / blood
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / diagnosis
  • Fetus / metabolism
  • Humans / embryology
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Placenta / metabolism*
  • Placenta / physiology*
  • Pre-Eclampsia / blood
  • Pre-Eclampsia / diagnosis
  • Pregnancy
  • Premature Birth / blood
  • Premature Birth / diagnosis


  • Biomarkers