Preserved efficiency of sickle cell disease placentas despite altered morphology and function

Placenta. 2020 Oct;100:81-88. doi: 10.1016/j.placenta.2020.08.008. Epub 2020 Aug 19.


Introduction: Pregnant women with sickle cell disease (SCD) are at high risk for sickle cell-related complications, obstetrical complications, and perinatal morbidity. Chronic inflammation and the proangiogenic environment associated with SCD have been associated with endothelial damage. It is unknown whether SCD complications could be associated with placental dysfunction or abnormal placental morphology. Moreover, circulating angiogenic factors in pregnant women with SCD are unexplored.

Methods: Clinical records, placental and blood samples were collected at term delivery for 21 pregnant patients with SCD and 19 HbAA pregnant controls with adapted to gestational age birth weight newborns. Histological and stereological analyses and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) of the placenta, and PlGF and sFlt1 measurements in blood were performed.

Results: In the SCD group, the parenchyma-forming villi of placentas were thinner than in controls, and increased fibrinoid necrosis and an overabundance of syncytial knots were seen. SEM revealed elongated intermediate villous endings with a reduction in the number of terminal villi compared to controls, indicating a significant branching defect in SCD placentas. Finally, SCD patients had an imbalance in the angiogenic ratio of sFlt1/PlGF (p = 0.008) with a drop of PlGF concentrations.

Discussion: We evidence for the first time both abnormal placenta morphology and altered sFlt1/PlGF ratio in SCD patients, uncorrelated with maintained placental efficiency and fetal growth.