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Title: Morphology and vascular transport in the human placenta
Author: Gill, Joshua Stephen
ISNI:       0000 0004 2732 6131
Awarding Body: Imperial College London
Current Institution: Imperial College London
Date of Award: 2012
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The fetal origins hypothesis suggests that interuterine life plays a more significant role in life-long adult health than previously thought. The human placenta is the crucial organ that supplies the developing fetus with oxygen and nutrients, and its function is closely related to the health of the baby. A more quantitative understanding of the placenta is sought, to provide more accurate statistics and predictions regarding fetal health. This research aims to quantify placental function and growth at two scales — gross placental morphology and oxygen transport at the microscopic level. Placental shape is quantified via Fourier series and moments, and probability distribution functions (similar to histograms) are calculated for measured characteristics. Analysis of distribution functions provides some information regarding the likely development of the placenta. Most distribution functions found are not normal (Gaussian), and posses power-law tails, indicative of more complex random growth phenomena. Oxygen transport is one of the fundamental functions of the placenta, and this research aims to quantify how efficiently various exchange geometries function. Segmented histology slides of terminal villi (the site of oxygen exchange) are used in numerical simulations of stationary diffusion within realistic geometries for the first time. Capillary numbers, positions and calibres are measured and combined in a number of ways to measure transport efficiency. Efficiency is then correlated with measures such as birth weight, and fractal vascular efficiency (which relates the mass of fetus created per mass of placenta). Significant correlations are found between efficient capillary arrangements and ‘healthy’ whole placental vasculature.
Supervisor: Vvedensky, Dimitri Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral