Researchers have discovered that an expectant mother's placenta nourishes the developing fetus by oxidizing fatty acids in addition to providing the fetus with glucose--previously believed to be the placenta's only energy source.
In mammals, the placenta provides the nutrients needed for growth and development and acts as an organ for the elimination of fetal waste. The team of researchers, from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, .Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, found that fatty-acid oxidation is critical for the placenta to work efficiently and for normal fetal development to occur.
"This discovery confirms that the placental pathway is important," said Dr. Michael J. Bennett, a member of the study team. "Our long-term goal is to fully define the pathway of how we get energy from fatty acids."
Mapping the energy pathway could lead to new treatments for low-birth-weight or small babies, he said. …