Placenta-targeted treatment strategies: An opportunity to impact fetal development and improve offspring health later in life

Esha Ganguly, Nataliia Hula, Floor Spaans, Christy Lynn M. Cooke, Sandra T. Davidge

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD) theory states that a sub-optimal prenatal and early postnatal environment during development leads to an increased risk of long-term development of adult chronic diseases. Developmental programming of disease has the potential to greatly impact the health of our population. Therefore, research has focused on the development of primary treatment strategies and/or therapeutic interventions for individuals who are at increased risk, with the objective to reverse or prevent later life onset of chronic disease in the offspring born from complicated pregnancies. Many studies have focused on systemic treatments and/or interventions in complicated pregnancies to improve offspring outcomes. However, there are limitations to systemic maternal/prenatal treatments, as most of the treatments are able to cross the placenta and have potential adverse off-target effects on the developing fetus. The placenta serves as the primary interface between mother and fetus, and placental dysfunction in complicated pregnancies has been associated with impaired fetal development and negative impact on offspring health. Therefore, recent research has focused on treatment strategies that specifically target the placenta to improve placental function and prevent passage of prenatal therapeutics and/or treatments into the fetal circulation, thus avoiding any potential adverse off-target effects on the fetus. This article reviews the currently available knowledge on treatment strategies and/or therapeutics that specifically target the placenta with the goal of improving pregnancy outcomes with a focus on long-term health of the offspring born of complicated pregnancies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104836
JournalPharmacological Research
StatePublished - Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Developmental origins of health and disease
  • Later life health
  • Placental dysfunction
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Therapeutic treatments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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