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Fetal villosity and microvasculature of the bovine placentome in the second half of gestation

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  • Research Article
  • Biology
  • Medicine


The architecture of the fetal villous tree and its vasculature in the bovine placentome were studied in the second half of gestation using both conventional histology and histology of ink-filled blood vessels. These were compared with corrosion casts of plastic fillings of the vasculature, prepared for scanning electron microscopy. This combination of morphological methods allows perception of the villous tree throughout gestation from broad-conical to tall-conical form where branch ramification occurs mainly at right angles to the stem. The stem villus typically contains a single central artery and several peripheral veins arranged in parallel. The proximal branches to the stem, the intermediate villi, contain a central arteriole and accompanying venules. The distal branches, the terminal villi, enclose capillary convolutions which consist of an afferent arterial capillary limb, capillary loops and efferent venous capillary limbs. Vascular interconnections exist within the terminal villi, as capillaries or venules between the capillary convolutions, serially bridging them in up to 5 places, and as capillary anastomoses between the capillary loops. Coiling and sinusoidal dilatations of these loops develop near the end of gestation. The intraplacentomal rearrangement of villous trees with progressive gestation and their morphological vascular adaptations are discussed in relation to placental function, including the ever increasing need for transplacental substance exchange. This adaptation allows the blood to traverse the shortest possible arterioarteriolar route to the periphery of the trees where exchange takes place. The need for an increasing blood flow stimulates capillary growth and at the same time optimises the blood flow reaching the placental barrier represented by the vessel cast surface. The capillaries also carry the blood back into the very voluminous system of venules and veins where back diffusion may occur. The total volume of terminal villi of bovine placentome, the ‘working part’ of villous trees, hence distinctly increases with respect to the stem and intermediate villi, the ‘supplying part’ of the villous tree. In morphological terms the efficiency of the bovine transplacental diffusional exchange is higher than in the closely related ‘co-ruminants’ sheep and goats and distinctly higher when compared with the human placenta.

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