The placenta is a specialized organ of exchange that provides nutrients to and excretes waste products from the fetus. The exchange of nutrients between placenta and fetus involves three major mechanisms: 1) direct transfer of nutrients from the maternal to the fetal plasma, 2) placental consumption of nutrients, and 3) placental conversion of nutrients to alternate substrate forms. Although direct transfer has been considered the primary means by which placental-fetal exchange controls the supply of nutrients to the fetus and thereby fetal metabolism and growth, the considerable metabolic activity of the placenta provides a large and fundamentally important contribution to both the quality and quantity of nutrient substrates supplied to the fetus; e.g., placental O2 and glucose consumption rates approach or even exceed those of brain and tumor tissue. Other placental metabolic activities include glycolysis, gluconeogenesis, glycogenesis, oxidation, protein synthesis, amino acid interconversion, triglyceride synthesis, and chain lengthening or shortening of individual fatty acids. Thus, consideration of the metabolism of the placenta is essential for a more complete understanding of how the placenta regulates nutrient transfer to the fetus, fetal energy balance, and fetal growth.

This content is only available via PDF.