April 15, 2019

Pilot Analysis of Cultured Placental Villi: Valproic Acid Can Affect the Function of the Human Placenta

Valproic acid is an established structural and neurodevelopmental teratogen. Recently, these researchers demonstrated that valproate alters the barrier function of perfused term human placentas. Here, they conducted a pilot study to evaluate the effects of subchronic valproate exposure on carrier expression in cultured placental villous explants from early human pregnancies.

Placental tissue of gestational age 6-13 weeks was collected from elective pregnancy terminations in women without known epilepsy. The effects of valproate (42, 83, or 166 ug/mL) on the mRNA expression of 37 major placental carriers and related genes were evaluated by a customized gene expression array (n = 5, 5 days). Five-day exposure to valproate was associated with high variability in gene expression. However, two main gene clusters were identified, including a cluster of three major folate carriers. Exposure to low therapeutic levels of valproate (42 ug/mL) was associated with a tendency toward reduced mRNA expression of genes encoding folate and amino acid and fatty acid carriers (P = 0.065, paired analysis).

The initial findings suggest that valproate can affect the function of the human placenta during early pregnancy.

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