A team of researchers from the University of Cambridge and the University of Manchester has created a high-resolution map of the human placenta, which has revealed the potential hideouts of the COVID-19 virus.
The placenta is a vital organ that connects the developing fetus to the mother's uterus and provides nutrients and oxygen to the fetus. It also acts as a barrier to protect the fetus from harmful substances, including viruses.
The researchers used advanced imaging techniques to create a detailed map of the placenta, which showed that the virus could potentially infect the placental cells that provide oxygen and nutrients to the fetus. These cells, called the trophoblasts, express the ACE2 receptor, which is the same receptor that the COVID-19 virus uses to enter human cells.
The study's lead author, Dr. Amanda Sferruzzi-Perri, said, "Our study provides the first detailed map of the placenta, which will be invaluable in understanding how the virus may affect pregnancy and fetal development."
The researchers also found that the placenta has a unique immune system that can protect the fetus from infections. The placenta contains immune cells that can recognize and destroy viruses, including the COVID-19 virus.
The study's co-author, Dr. John Aplin, said, "Our findings suggest that the placenta has a sophisticated defense system against viral infections, which may explain why the virus does not appear to cause severe disease in pregnant women."
The researchers hope that their findings will help in the development of treatments and vaccines for COVID-19 that are safe for pregnant women and their fetuses.
Overall, the high-resolution map of the human placenta has provided valuable insights into the potential impact of COVID-19 on pregnancy and fetal development. It has also highlighted the importance of understanding the unique immune system of the placenta in protecting the fetus from infections.