Investigating human placentation and pregnancy using first trimester chorionic villi


Chorionic villus sampling (CVS), routinely used for prenatal diagnosis of cytogenetic disorders, also possesses great potential for the study of placentation. To better understand villus biology, human placentation, and how these relate to pregnancy outcomes, we examined the morphology and transcriptomes of villi obtained via CVS from 10 to 14 weeks of pregnancy and correlated these with pregnancy attributes and clinical outcomes. First, we established a morphological scoring system based on three main villus features: branching, budding and vascularization. We then tested whether morphology scores were predictive of pregnancy attributes and clinical outcomes. Finally, we used RNA sequencing to assess the transcriptional basis of villus morphology and tested the hypothesis that gene expression may predict pregnancy outcomes. We demonstrate that villus morphology varies tremendously between patients, irrespective of gestational age, and that transcriptional differences are highly predictive of villus morphology. We show that pre-eclampsia markers are associated with villi with low morphology scores. Additionally, we identify SVEP1 as a possible biomarker for defining gestational age. Overall, chorionic villi in the first trimester remain one of the few means to correlate placental function with pregnancy outcome and these samples are a valuable and increasingly rare resource.

Journal details

Journal Placenta
Volume 65
Pages 65-75
Available online
Publication date