22 August 2008
Spatial arrangement and complexity of the capillary bed of placental terminal villi were analyzed in 9 normal and 11 diabetic placentas. Specimens were taken by systematic random sampling, fixed and stained in toto, and embedded in paraffin. Fifteen fields of view were sampled systematically from 120-µm-thick sections of specimens and examined using a confocal laser scanning microscope. Series of thin optical sections of terminal villi and their developmental forms were recorded by the confocal microscope and used as initial data for three-dimensional visualization of the spatial arrangement of villous capillaries. Vascular topology and branching were studied by focusing through the villus, making a schematic drawing of the villous capillary bed and counting redundant capillary connections. It was found that the basic arrangement of villous capillaries is similar in both normal and diabetic placentas. Nevertheless, the proportion of simple forms of the capillary bed without redundant connections is significantly higher in normal placentas and the mean number of redundant connections per villus is significantly higher in diabetic placentas. It is concluded that both the longitudinal growth and branching of capillaries contribute to the increase in the placental capillary bed in late gestation and that the capillary bed of diabetic villi is more complicated due to more intense capillary branching.