There is a really interesting article in the New York Times about a study that seems to have discovered a link between autism and the number of abnormal creases in the placenta.
The article says:
The research potentially marks a new frontier, not only for autism, but also for the significance of the placenta, long considered an after-birth afterthought. Now, only 10 percent to 15 percent of placentas are analyzed, usually after pregnancy complications or a newborn’s death.
Dr. Harvey J. Kliman, a research scientist at the Yale School of Medicine and lead author of the study, said the placenta had typically been given such little respect in the medical community that wanting to study it was considered equivalent to someone in the Navy wanting to scrub ships’ toilets with a toothbrush. But he became fascinated with placentas and noticed that inclusions often occurred with births involving problematic outcomes, usually genetic disorders.
There are still clearly some unknowns, but I am certainly glad to see the placenta being recognized as more than medical waste. This research suggests that it can tell us a story, as these creases, called inclusions, are the placenta's way of responding to various types of stress. And if the link can be proven definitively, it may provide opportunity for early support and therapies for affected children.
You can read the full article here.