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Vol. 194, No. 1, 2011
Issue release date: June 2011

A New Possible Function for Placental Pericytes

Jones C.J.P. · Desoye G.
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The pericyte is a multifunctional cell closely associated with endothelial cells and may play a role in angiogenesis and vessel stabilisation. Re-examination of over 1,100 micrographs from archival material used to investigate ultrastructural changes in placental development and pathology has identified previously undescribed structures associated with the pericyte of the human placental terminal villus. These structures take the form of outgrowths from the main body of the cell, with a narrow neck rich in cytoplasmic filaments, terminating in swollen tips which appear to bleb off the pericyte and form electron lucent stromal vesicles. Semi-quantitative analysis indicated that these features are present in some placentae from normal, term pregnancies but are increasingly found where capillaries show abnormalities such as a failure to form sinusoids, as in pregnancies complicated by diabetes, postmaturity, rhesus incompatibility and pre-eclampsia. This blebbing is compared with similar phenomena associated with apoptosis and zeiosis and it is suggested that it may contribute to fluid homeostasis where normal mechanisms are impaired by thickening or damage to endothelial cells.

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