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The placenta is essential to nutrition before birth. Recent work has shown that a range of clearly defined alterations can be found in the placentas of infants with intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). In the mouse, a placental specific knockout of a single imprinted gene, encoding IGF-2, results in one pattern of alterations in placenta structure and function which leads to IUGR. We speculate that the alterations in the human placenta can also be grouped into patterns, or phenotypes, that are associated with specific patterns of fetal growth. Identifying the placental phenotypes of different fetal growth patterns will improve the ability of clinicians to recognize high-risk patients, of laboratory scientists to disentangle the complexities of IUGR, and of public health teams to target interventions aimed at ameliorating the long-term adverse effects of inadequate intrauterine growth.

(C) International Pediatrics Research Foundation, Inc. 2005. All Rights Reserved.