Adverse Placental Perfusion and Pregnancy Outcomes in a New Nonhuman Primate Model of Gestational Protein Restriction

Victoria H.J. Roberts, Jamie O. Lo, Katherine S. Lewandowski, Peter Blundell, Kevin L. Grove, Christopher D. Kroenke, Elinor L. Sullivan, Charles T. Roberts, Antonio E. Frias

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Maternal malnutrition during pregnancy impacts fetal growth, with developmental consequences that extend to later life outcomes. In underdeveloped countries, this malnutrition typically takes the form of poor dietary protein content and quality, even if adequate calories are consumed. Here, we report the establishment of a nonhuman primate model of gestational protein restriction (PR) in order to understand how placental function and pregnancy outcomes are affected by protein deficiency. Rhesus macaques were assigned to either a control diet containing 26% protein or switched to a 13% PR diet prior to conception and maintained on this PR diet throughout pregnancy. Standard fetal biometry, Doppler ultrasound of uteroplacental blood flow, ultrasound-guided amniocentesis, and contrast-enhanced ultrasound (CE-US) to assess placental perfusion were performed mid-gestation (gestational day 85 [G85] where term is G168) and in the early third trimester (G135). Our data demonstrate that a 50% reduction in dietary protein throughout gestation results in reduced placental perfusion, fetal growth restriction, and a 50% rate of pregnancy loss. In addition, we demonstrate reduced total protein content and evidence of fetal hypoxia in the amniotic fluid. This report highlights the use of CE-US for in vivo assessment of placental vascular function. The ability to detect placental dysfunction, and thus a compromised pregnancy, early in gestation, may facilitate the development of interventional strategies to optimize clinical care and improve long-term offspring outcomes, which are future areas of study in this new model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)110-119
Number of pages10
JournalReproductive Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


  • contrast-enhanced ultrasound
  • in vivo imaging
  • nonhuman primate
  • placental dysfunction
  • placental perfusion
  • protein restriction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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