The morphometry of materno-fetal oxygen exchange barrier in a baboon model of obesity

J. E. Samson, G. Mari, E. J. Dick, G. B. Hubbard, R. J. Ferry, N. E. Schlabritz-Loutsevitch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Introduction: More than one-fourth of U.S. women are overweight; more than one-third are obese. Maternal obesity has been linked to an increased incidence of stillbirths, fetal macrosomia, fetal intrauterine growth restriction and pre-eclampsia. The placenta plays a key role in the nutrients and oxygen supply to the fetus. The data about structural changes in the placental villous membrane (VM), a major component of the feto-maternal nutrient and oxygen exchange barrier, during obesity are sparse and inconsistent. Our objective was to evaluate the morphometric changes in the placental exchange barrier in a baboon model of obesity. Materials and methods: The previously described baboon model of maternal obesity was studied. We compared 4 obese to 4 non-obese baboons. Placental stereology with the use of transmission electron microscopy was performed to estimate VM oxygen diffusing capacities and morphometry. Results: The specific placental oxygen diffusing capacities per unit of fetal weight were similar in baboons and humans. Maternal leptin concentrations correlated negatively with placental basement membrane thickness (r = -0.78, p < 0.05), while fetal leptin levels correlated negatively with endothelial thickness of fetal capillaries (r = -0.78, p < 0.05). The total and specific villous membrane oxygen diffusing capacities were not different between the two groups. Conclusion: To the best of our knowledge this is the first report of placental oxygen diffusing capacities and placental ultrastructural changes in a baboon model of obesity. Previously reported placental inflammation in maternal obesity is not associated with changes in the VM diffusing capacities and ultrastructure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)845-851
Number of pages7
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Leptin
  • Morphometry
  • Obesity
  • Oxygen diffusing capasity
  • Placenta

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Developmental Biology


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