Methods: Ten samples of decidua basalis from pre-eclamptic women and 10 from healthy primigravid women subjected to caesarean section (control tissues) were investigated immunohistochemically for changes in angiogenesis and expression of tenascin, an extracellular matrix protein thought to modulate angiogenesis. In addition, pre-eclamptic and control samples were grafted onto the chick embryo chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) to study their possible angiogenic activity in vivo. Results: Although the microvessel area was low in control samples, it increased significantly in the pre-eclamptic decidua. In parallel, the area covered by tenascin staining underwent a significant expansion that was highly correlated with the microvessel area. Angiogenic activity was assessed both macroscopically and microscopically on hist, logical sections 4 days after grafting. In contrast to control samples, pre-eclamptic decidua induced an intense capillary growth, and numerous capillaries converging towards the implant and forming a spoke-wheel pattern were evident. Histological examination using a planimetric point-count method showed that microvessel counts in the CAM area under and around the pre- eclamptic implants were significantly higher than those of control samples. Again, the extracellular matrix of nearby microvessels was strongly immunoreactive with tenascin. Conclusion: It is suggested that, unlike normal decidua, pre-eclamptic decidua displays an intense, autonomous angiogenic activity, probably mediated by tenascin in addition to its own angiogenic factors.
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