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1.  On the Perplexingly Low Rate of Transport of IgG2 across the Human Placenta 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e108319.
The neonatal receptor, FcRn, mediates both serum half–life extension as well as active transport of maternal IgG to the fetus during pregnancy. Therefore, transport efficiency and half-life go hand-in-hand. However, while the half-life of the human IgG2 subclass is comparable to IgG1, the placental transport of IgG2 is not, with the neonatal IgG1 levels generally exceeding maternal levels at birth, but not for IgG2. We hypothesized that the unique short-hinged structure of IgG2, which enables its κ-, but not λ-isotype to form at least three different structural isoforms, might be a contributing factor to these differences. To investigate whether there was any preference for either light chain, we measured placental transport of IgG subclasses as well as κ/λ-light chain isotypes of IgG1 and IgG2 in 27 matched mother-child pairs. We also studied the half-life of IgG1 and IgG2 light chain isotypes in mice, as well as that of synthesized IgG2 structural isotypes κA and κB. In order to investigate serum clearance of IgG1 and IgG2 light-chain isotypes in humans, we quantified the relative proportions of IgG1 and IgG2 light chains in hypogammaglobulinemia patients four weeks after IVIg infusion and compared to the original IVIg isotype composition. None of our results indicate any light chain preference in either of the FcRn mediated mechanisms; half-life extension or maternal transport.
PMCID: PMC4177109  PMID: 25251461
2.  Fetal Mesenchymal Stromal Cells Differentiating towards Chondrocytes Acquire a Gene Expression Profile Resembling Human Growth Plate Cartilage 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e44561.
We used human fetal bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stromal cells (hfMSCs) differentiating towards chondrocytes as an alternative model for the human growth plate (GP). Our aims were to study gene expression patterns associated with chondrogenic differentiation to assess whether chondrocytes derived from hfMSCs are a suitable model for studying the development and maturation of the GP. hfMSCs efficiently formed hyaline cartilage in a pellet culture in the presence of TGFβ3 and BMP6. Microarray and principal component analysis were applied to study gene expression profiles during chondrogenic differentiation. A set of 232 genes was found to correlate with in vitro cartilage formation. Several identified genes are known to be involved in cartilage formation and validate the robustness of the differentiating hfMSC model. KEGG pathway analysis using the 232 genes revealed 9 significant signaling pathways correlated with cartilage formation. To determine the progression of growth plate cartilage formation, we compared the gene expression profile of differentiating hfMSCs with previously established expression profiles of epiphyseal GP cartilage. As differentiation towards chondrocytes proceeds, hfMSCs gradually obtain a gene expression profile resembling epiphyseal GP cartilage. We visualized the differences in gene expression profiles as protein interaction clusters and identified many protein clusters that are activated during the early chondrogenic differentiation of hfMSCs showing the potential of this system to study GP development.
PMCID: PMC3489884  PMID: 23144774
3.  Comparison of the Fc glycosylation of fetal and maternal immunoglobulin G 
Glycoconjugate Journal  2012;30(2):147-157.
Human immunoglobulin G (IgG) molecules are composed of two Fab portions and one Fc portion. The glycans attached to the Fc portions of IgG are known to modulate its biological activity as they influence interaction with both complement and various cellular Fc receptors. IgG glycosylation changes significantly with pregnancy, showing a vast increase in galactosylation and sialylation and a concomitant decrease in the incidence of bisecting GlcNAc. Maternal IgGs are actively transported to the fetus by the neonatal Fc receptor (FcRn) expressed in syncytiotrophoblasts in the placenta, providing the fetus and newborn with immunological protection. Two earlier reports described significant differences in total glycosylation between fetal and maternal IgG, suggesting a possible glycosylation-selective transport via the placenta. These results might suggest an alternative maternal transport pathway, since FcRn binding to IgG does not depend on Fc-glycosylation. These early studies were performed by releasing N-glycans from total IgG. Here, we chose for an alternative approach analyzing IgG Fc glycosylation at the glycopeptide level in an Fc-specific manner, providing glycosylation profiles for IgG1 and IgG4 as well as combined Fc glycosylation profiles of IgG2 and 3. The analysis of ten pairs of fetal and maternal IgG samples revealed largely comparable Fc glycosylation for all the analyzed subclasses. Average levels of galactosylation, sialylation, bisecting GlcNAc and fucosylation were very similar for the fetal and maternal IgGs. Our data suggest that the placental IgG transport is not Fc glycosylation selective.
PMCID: PMC3552368  PMID: 22572841
Fc receptor; Galactosylation; Glycopeptide; Placenta; Sialylation
4.  Pregnancy Close to the Edge: An Immunosuppressive Infiltrate in the Chorionic Plate of Placentas from Uncomplicated Egg Cell Donation 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e32347.
In pregnancies achieved after egg donation (ED) tolerance towards a completely allogeneic fetus is mediated by several complex immunoregulatory mechanisms, of which numerous aspects are still unknown. A distinct lesion not described previously in the literature, was repeatedly found in the chorionic plate in a substantial portion of placentas from ED pregnancies, but never in placentas from normal term pregnancies. The aim of this study was to assess its origin and its cellular composition. The relation between the lesion, the clinical and histological parameters were assessed. In addition we investigated the relation with the number of HLA-mismatches and KIR genotype of mother and child.
In ten out of twenty-six (38.5%) placentas from ED pregnancies an inflammatory lesion was present in the chorionic plate. A significantly lower incidence of pre-eclampsia was found in the group with the lesion; 0% versus 45.5%. A significant relation was found between this lesion and the presence of intervillositis, chronic deciduitis, presence of plasma cells and fibrin deposition in the decidua. Fluorescent in situ hybridisation with X/Y-chromosome probes showed that the majority of cells present in the lesion are of maternal origin. The expression of the macrophage marker CD14+ and of the type 2 macrophage (M2) marker CD163+ was significantly higher in the lesion. The incidence of a fetal HLA-C2 genotype was significantly higher in cases with a lesion compared to the group without the lesion. In conclusion, a striking relationship was observed between the presence of a not previously described inflammatory lesion in the chorionic plate and the absence of pre-eclampsia in ED pregnancies. The lesion consists of mainly maternal cells with a higher expression of the macrophage marker CD14+ and the M2 marker CD163+. These findings suggest a protective immune mechanism which might contribute to the prevention of severe clinical complications like pre-eclampsia.
PMCID: PMC3314004  PMID: 22479322
5.  Increased incidence of pregnancy complications in women who later develop scleroderma: a case control study 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2011;13(6):R183.
Studies have shown that fetal progenitor cells persist in maternal blood or bone marrow for more than 30 years after delivery. Increased trafficking of fetal cells occurs during pregnancy complications, such as hypertension, preeclampsia, miscarriage and intra-uterine growth restriction (IUGR). Women with these pregnancy complications are significantly more often HLA-class II compatible with their spouses. Women who later develop scleroderma also give birth to an HLA-class II child more often. From these prior studies we hypothesized that preeclampsia and other pregnancy complications could be associated with increased levels of fetal cell trafficking, and later be involved in the development of scleroderma.
This study was a retrospective multi-centre matched case-control study. One-hundred-and-three women with systemic sclerosis (SSc) and 103 women with no history of SSc or other autoimmune disease were given a questionnaire regarding complications during pregnancy, such as hypertension, intra-uterine growth restriction (IUGR) and miscarriage. Conditional logistic regression analysis was used to assess associations.
We found a statistically significantly increased incidence of having had a pregnancy history of hypertension or a fetus with IUGR in women who subsequently developed SSc compared to healthy controls. We found an odds ratio of 2.6 (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.1 to 4.6) for hypertensive complications during pregnancy and an odds ratio of 3.9 (95% CI: 1.2 to 12.3) for intra-uterine growth restriction for women with SSc compared to healthy controls.
This is the first study to show an association between hypertensive complications during pregnancy or IUGR and the development of SSc at a later age. We speculate that the pregnancy abnormalities may have resulted in increased fetomaternal trafficking, which may have played a role in the increased incidence of SSc. Further studies are indicated to examine this putative relationship.
PMCID: PMC3334631  PMID: 22053948
Pregnancy; Chimerism; Systemic sclerosis; Hypertension; Pre-eclampsia; Intra-uterine growth restriction
6.  Human Embryonic and Fetal Mesenchymal Stem Cells Differentiate toward Three Different Cardiac Lineages in Contrast to Their Adult Counterparts 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e24164.
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) show unexplained differences in differentiation potential. In this study, differentiation of human (h) MSCs derived from embryonic, fetal and adult sources toward cardiomyocytes, endothelial and smooth muscle cells was investigated. Labeled hMSCs derived from embryonic stem cells (hESC-MSCs), fetal umbilical cord, bone marrow, amniotic membrane and adult bone marrow and adipose tissue were co-cultured with neonatal rat cardiomyocytes (nrCMCs) or cardiac fibroblasts (nrCFBs) for 10 days, and also cultured under angiogenic conditions. Cardiomyogenesis was assessed by human-specific immunocytological analysis, whole-cell current-clamp recordings, human-specific qRT-PCR and optical mapping. After co-culture with nrCMCs, significantly more hESC-MSCs than fetal hMSCs stained positive for α-actinin, whereas adult hMSCs stained negative. Furthermore, functional cardiomyogenic differentiation, based on action potential recordings, was shown to occur, but not in adult hMSCs. Of all sources, hESC-MSCs expressed most cardiac-specific genes. hESC-MSCs and fetal hMSCs contained significantly higher basal levels of connexin43 than adult hMSCs and co-culture with nrCMCs increased expression. After co-culture with nrCFBs, hESC-MSCs and fetal hMSCs did not express α-actinin and connexin43 expression was decreased. Conduction velocity (CV) in co-cultures of nrCMCs and hESC-MSCs was significantly higher than in co-cultures with fetal or adult hMSCs. In angiogenesis bioassays, only hESC-MSCs and fetal hMSCs were able to form capillary-like structures, which stained for smooth muscle and endothelial cell markers.Human embryonic and fetal MSCs differentiate toward three different cardiac lineages, in contrast to adult MSCs. Cardiomyogenesis is determined by stimuli from the cellular microenvironment, where connexin43 may play an important role.
PMCID: PMC3170333  PMID: 21931658
7.  Maternal health-related quality of life after induction of labor or expectant monitoring in pregnancy complicated by intrauterine growth retardation beyond 36 weeks 
Quality of Life Research  2011;20(9):1427-1436.
Pregnancies complicated by intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR) beyond 36 weeks of gestation are at increased risk of neonatal morbidity and mortality. Optimal treatment in IUGR at term is highly debated. Results from the multicenter DIGITAT (Disproportionate Intrauterine Growth Intervention Trial At Term) trial show that induction of labor and expectant monitoring result in equal neonatal and maternal outcomes for comparable cesarean section rates. We report the maternal health-related quality of life (HR-QoL) that was measured alongside the trial at several points in time.
Both randomized and non-randomized women were asked to participate in the HR-QoL study. Women were asked to fill out written validated questionnaires, covering background characteristics, condition-specific issues and the Short Form (SF-36), European Quality of Life (EuroQoL 6D3L), Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale (HADS), and Symptom Check List (SCL-90) at baseline, 6 weeks postpartum and 6 months postpartum. We compared the difference scores of all summary measures between the two management strategies by ANOVA. A repeated measures multivariate mixed model was defined to assess the effect of the management strategies on the physical (PCS) and mental (MCS) components of the SF-36. Analysis was by intention to treat.
We analyzed data of 361 randomized and 198 non-randomized patients. There were no clinically relevant differences between the treatments at 6 weeks or 6 months postpartum on any summary measures; e.g., on the SF-36 (PCS: P = .09; MCS: P = .48). The PCS and the MCS were below norm values at inclusion. The PCS improved over time but stayed below norm values at 6 months, while the MCS did not improve.
In pregnancies complicated by IUGR beyond 36 weeks, induction of labor does not affect the long-term maternal quality of life.
PMCID: PMC3195683  PMID: 21468753
Intrauterine growth retardation; Small for gestational age; Quality of life; Induction of labor; Expectant management
8.  Assessment of perinatal outcome after sustained tocolysis in early labour (APOSTEL-II trial) 
Preterm labour is the main cause of perinatal morbidity and mortality in the Western world. At present, there is evidence that tocolysis for 48 hours is useful in women with threatened preterm labour at least before 32 weeks. This allows transfer of the patient to a perinatal centre, and maximizes the effect of corticosteroids for improved neonatal survival. It is questionable whether treatment with tocolytics should be maintained after 48 hours.
The APOSTEL II trial is a multicentre placebo-controlled study. Pregnant women admitted for threatened preterm labour who have been treated with 48 hours corticosteroids and tocolysis will be eligible to participate in the trial between 26+0 and 32+2 weeks gestational age. They will be randomly allocated to nifedipine (intervention) or placebo (control) for twelve days or until delivery, whatever comes first.
Primary outcome is a composite of perinatal death, and severe neonatal morbidity up to evaluation at 6 months after birth. Secondary outcomes are gestational age at delivery, number of days in neonatal intensive care and total days of the first 6 months out of hospital. In addition a cost-effectiveness analysis will be performed. Analysis will be by intention to treat. The power calculation is based on an expected 11% difference in adverse neonatal outcome. This implies that 406 women have to be randomised (two sided test, β 0.2 at alpha 0.05).
This trial will provide evidence as to whether maintenance tocolysis reduces severe perinatal morbidity and mortality in women with threatened preterm labour before 32 weeks.
Trial Registration
Clinical trial registration: , NTR 1336, date of registration: June 3rd 2008.
PMCID: PMC2754432  PMID: 19737426
9.  Cost-effectiveness of fibronectin testing in a triage in women with threatened preterm labor: alleviation of pregnancy outcome by suspending tocolysis in early labor (APOSTEL-I trial) 
At present, women with threatened preterm labor before 32 weeks of gestation are, after transfer to a perinatal center, treated with tocolytics and corticosteroids. Many of these women are treated unnecessarily. Fibronectin is an accurate predictor for the occurrence of preterm birth among women with threatened preterm labor. We will assess whether triage of these women with fibronectin testing, cervical length or their combination is cost-effective.
We will investigate a prospective cohort of women referred to a perinatal centre for spontaneous threatened preterm labor between 24 and 34 weeks with intact membranes. All women will be tested for fibronectin and cervical length. Women with a cervical length <10 mm and women with a cervical length between 10-30 mm in combination with a positive fibronectin test will be treated with tocolytics according to local protocol. Women with a cervical length between 10-30 mm in combination with a negative fibronectin test will be randomised between treatment with nifedipine (intervention) and placebo (control) for 48 hours. Women with a cervical length > 30 mm will be managed according to local protocol. Corticosteroids may be given to all women at the discretion of the attending physician. Primary outcome measure will be delivery within 7 days. Secondary outcome measures will be neonatal morbidity and mortality, complications of tocolytics, costs and health related quality of life. The analysis will be according to the intention to treat principle. We anticipate the probability on preterm birth within 7 days in the group of women with a negative fibronectine test to be 5%. Two groups of 110 women will be needed to assure that in case of non-inferiority the difference in the proportion of preterm deliveries < 7 days will be within a prespecified boundary of 7.5% (one sided test, β 0.2, α 0.05). Data obtained from women with a positive and negative fibronectin tests in both the cohort study and the trial will be integrated in a cost-effectiveness analysis that will assess economic consequences of the use of fibronectin.
This study will provide evidence for the use of fibronectin testing as safe and cost-effective method in a triage for threatened preterm labor.
Trial registration
Nederlands Trial Register (NTR) number 1857, .
PMCID: PMC2752451  PMID: 19723320
10.  Disproportionate Intrauterine Growth Intervention Trial At Term: DIGITAT 
Around 80% of intrauterine growth restricted (IUGR) infants are born at term. They have an increase in perinatal mortality and morbidity including behavioral problems, minor developmental delay and spastic cerebral palsy. Management is controversial, in particular the decision whether to induce labour or await spontaneous delivery with strict fetal and maternal surveillance. We propose a randomised trial to compare effectiveness, costs and maternal quality of life for induction of labour versus expectant management in women with a suspected IUGR fetus at term.
The proposed trial is a multi-centre randomised study in pregnant women who are suspected on clinical grounds of having an IUGR child at a gestational age between 36+0 and 41+0 weeks. After informed consent women will be randomly allocated to either induction of labour or expectant management with maternal and fetal monitoring. Randomisation will be web-based. The primary outcome measure will be a composite neonatal morbidity and mortality. Secondary outcomes will be severe maternal morbidity, maternal quality of life and costs. Moreover, we aim to assess neurodevelopmental and neurobehavioral outcome at two years as assessed by a postal enquiry (Child Behavioral Check List-CBCL and Ages and Stages Questionnaire-ASQ). Analysis will be by intention to treat. Quality of life analysis and a preference study will also be performed in the same study population. Health technology assessment with an economic analysis is part of this so called Digitat trial (Disproportionate Intrauterine Growth Intervention Trial At Term). The study aims to include 325 patients per arm.
This trial will provide evidence for which strategy is superior in terms of neonatal and maternal morbidity and mortality, costs and maternal quality of life aspects. This will be the first randomised trial for IUGR at term.
Trial registration
Dutch Trial Register and ISRCTN-Register: ISRCTN10363217.
PMCID: PMC1933438  PMID: 17623077

Results 1-11 (11)