Scientists from the Vellcome Sanger Institute, University of Nevada and the University of Cambridge (UK), publish this week on the title page of Nature magazine, the most readable cellular map until the date of the contact zone between the mother and her future child. This atlas of cellular composition indicates possible keys to avoid the most common early problems and achieve successful pregnancy without complications.
Researchers, including the Spanish brothers Roser and Mikuel Vento-Tormo, have managed to map more than 70,000 transcripts (transcribed DNA) of healthy cells collected between Sunday 6 and 14 pregnancies thanks to complex bioinformate and genomic techniques.
"The idea was to understand the mechanisms that take place in the first trimester of pregnancy without complications, so we have made a reference map of all cells and their interactions in order to compare the differences that exist between healthy gestation and those that pose problems in the future, explains Roser Vento-Tormo of the Vellcome Sanger Institute.
"We have discovered which genes modify maternal immunity and allow the exact development of the fetus", Roser Vento explains
The analysis focuses on the first trimester because the crucial moment determining the survival of the embryo (and the next fetus) is crucial. During these first weeks, fetal cells of the placenta were formed – communicating with those in the mother to modify the immune response – trying to avoid the rejection situation.
Thanks to them, the embryo is able to adhere to the uterus in decidu, which is the tiniest layer of pregnant uterus that is thick in favor of implantation. In addition, it will serve as a way to feed and oxygenate the fetus over the coming months.
"For the first time in history, we have been able to observe which genes are active in deciduous and placental cells, revealing which are modifying the mother's immune system and allowing the proper development of the fetus," says Vento.
The chances of complications during pregnancy are higher during the first weeks, when the fetus is still not consolidated. In fact, two out of three spontaneous spontaneous events occur during the first trimester.
Vento explains that for now the study has focused only on understanding healthy pregnancies. However, "in the future we will be able to predict whether there is any type of change at the beginning of pregnancy, analyzing patient samples".
Muzlifah Hanifa, a researcher at the University of Newcastle, said these results will have important implications for a better understanding of what happens when a pregnant woman suffers from preeclampsia or even when it comes to abortion. "
In the future, experts will be able to predict whether there is any type of change at the beginning of pregnancy
For experts, this finding will also have a significant impact on cancer studies, since it is known that tumor cells are using similar mechanisms to avoid the immune system and feed from the bloodstream and increase size.
Open access database
The results were obtained thanks to the creation of a tool developed in cooperation with Mikuel Vento-Tormo and his team from the Spanish software development company IDEVS.
This database, baptized by CellPhoneDB, collects information about molecules and their interactions, as well as predicting the most likely cellular interactions. According to Roser Vent, "this tool can be applied to any material. Together with my brother Mikel, we made it available to everyone."
Cellular map of the human body
This study is part of the Human Cell Atlas initiative, an international consortium led by Sara Teichmann, one of the main supervisors of this publication, and is also a researcher at the Vellcome Sanger Institute.
"With this initiative we intend to make a complete reference map of all human cells in order to better detect diseases," Vento concludes.