Animal models of placental angiogenesis

L P Reynolds, P P Borowicz, K A Vonnahme, M L Johnson, A T Grazul-Bilska, Jacqueline Wallace, Joel Caton, D A Redmer

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

145 Citations (Scopus)


The study of the development of the fetal membranes is an ancient one, and the importance of placental vascular development to placental function has long been recognized. Animal models have been important in these studies, as they allow for controlled experiments and analysis of multiple time-points during pregnancy. Since the demonstration nearly 20 years ago that the placenta produces angiogenic factors, the major factors regulating placental angiogenesis have been identified. These major factors include vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), the angiopoietins (ANG), and their receptors. Recently, sophisticated computerized image analysis methods have been developed to establish the pattern of placental vascular development in sheep. The maternal placental capillary bed develops primarily by increased size of capillaries, with only small increases in capillary number or surface densities. In contrast, the microvasculature of the fetal placenta develops primarily by increased branching, resulting in a large increase in capillary number and surface densities. These observations help to explain the relatively large increase in umbilical blood flow and nutrient delivery to the fetus that occurs during the last half of gestation. In addition, expression of mRNAs for VEGF, bFGF, ANG, and their receptors have recently been correlated with normal placental vascular development in sheep, and further refinement of these mathematical models is warranted. Lastly, the recent development of animal models of compromised pregnancies, including those resulting from maternal nutrition (both restriction and excess), multiple fetuses, environmental stress (heat stress and high altitude), and fetal and maternal breed effects, has already indicated that reductions in placental vascular development and expression of angiogenic factors are probably a root cause of fetal growth restriction. With these methods and models now in place, we should soon be able to establish the mechanisms involved in both normal and abnormal placental angiogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)689-708
Number of pages20
Issue number10
Early online date2 Feb 2005
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2005


  • vascular development
  • angiogenesis
  • placenta
  • fetus
  • fetal growth
  • animals
  • animal models
  • endothelial growth factor
  • uterine blood flow
  • human fetoplacental vasculogenesis
  • factor gene expression
  • gravid bovine uterus
  • fetal growth
  • nutrient uptake
  • early pregnancy
  • birth weight
  • nitric oxide


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