Fetal membranes can repair themselves after injury

Fetal membranes can repair themselves after injury

An international research team has shown that fetal membranes are able to heal after injury, according to a study published in the journal Scientific reports.

The integrity of the fetal membranes that surround the baby in the womb during pregnancy is vital for normal development. But fetal membranes can be damaged as a result of infection, bleeding, fetal surgery, and even diagnostic tests during pregnancy, such as amniocentesis, which requires doctors to make a hole with it. a needle in the fetal membrane sac. Currently, there is no clinical approach available to repair or improve the healing of fetal membranes, and until now, it was not clear whether small holes in the membranes could heal themselves.

Led by scientists at Queen Mary University in London, the research team created small defects with a needle in donated human fetal membrane tissue, to mimic the damage done during fetal surgery. A few days after the injury, the researchers found a population of cells called myofibroblasts (MFs), which play an important role in wound healing, and found that these cells crawled to the edges of the wound and into the site of the defect. . This cell population produced collagen and began to pull the edges of the wound, contracting the tissues together and repairing the wound.

The findings follow the team’s earlier work that highlighted the importance of a protein called Connexin 43 (Cx43) in the process of wound healing and repair. In this study, the researchers show that Cx43 was expressed by two cell populations – amniotic mesenchymal cells (AMCs) and MFs – and that the location and levels of Cx43 measured were different. They also found that overexpression of this protein affected the ability of cells to migrate to the defective site and close the wound.

“We have always believed that small diameter wounds created in human fetal membranes rarely heal on their own, but here we show that tissue has the potential to do so,” said Dr. Tina Chowdhury, senior lecturer. in Regenerative Medicine at Queen Mary. “We have found that Cx43 has different effects on cell populations found in membranes and promotes the transformation of AMCs into MFs, prompting them to move, repair and heal defects in fetal membranes.”

Premature rupture of fetal membranes, known as premature rupture of membranes before labor (PPROM), is a major cause of premature birth accounting for about 40% of premature infant deaths. Therefore, the successful repair of fetal membranes could help reduce the risk of birth complications.

“Finding out that fetal membranes have this healing potential is a big step towards developing treatments for women with PPROM,” said study co-author Professor Anna David of University College London. . “This gives hope that we may be able to delay or even prevent premature births, which will dramatically improve outcomes for babies.”

Image caption: Wound healing in fetal membrane tissue. The images show the collagen protein (left) and cells (right).

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