Gearing up for a closer look at the human placenta

Jocelyn is a staff writer for Science magazine.

The human placenta, the disk-shaped mass of tissue that sustains a developing fetus for 9 months, plays a role in everything from preterm births to diseases of middle age. Now, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) in Bethesda, Maryland, wants to rally researchers and funders around a project to better understand this underappreciated organ. At an NICHD-sponsored workshop last week, some 70 researchers laid out their ideas for what the institute calls the Human Placenta Project, including ways to better monitor the placenta during a pregnancy, and drugs to bolster it when it falters.

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