This study compared the ultrastructural differences of term placentae from human pregnancies resulting from assisted reproductive technology (ART) with term placentae from spontaneous human pregnancies. Term placentae were taken from women who had undergone an ART procedure (n = 8) and matched with term placentae from women who had had a spontaneous pregnancy (controls, n = 15). Using light microscopy (LM) and transmission-electron microscopy (TEM), terminal villi were evaluated with respect to the placental blood barrier, fetal capillaries, villous stroma, as well as cytotrophoblasts and syncytiotrophoblasts (ST) along with their substructures. No obvious differences were found between the ART-derived and control placentae when LM was used. With TEM, however, differences in the ultrastructural features were seen in the ART-derived placentae, specifically degenerative alterations of the terminal villi, mainly in ST, including a thicker placental barrier, decreased apical microvilli, and increased multiple vacuoles. The results demonstrate that some ultrastructural differences exist between ART-derived and control placentae with respect to the placental blood barrier, which may suggest maternofetal traffic downregulation following ART treatment. Further studies are required to understand the ultrastructural changes and their potential functional aspects in ART pregnancies.
Thickening of the placental barrier, decreased density of apical microvilli, and increased number of vacuoles observed in syncytiotrophoblast have been detected in term placentae derived from women who have undergone assisted reproduction indicating downregulation of maternofetal exchanges in their placentae.