Chorionic villi

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Chorionic villi
Chorionic villi - intermed mag.jpg
Micrograph showing chorionic villi. Intermediate magnification. H&E stain.
Chorionic villi - very high mag.jpg
Micrograph showing chorionic villi. Very high magnification. H&E stain.
Anatomical terminology

Chorionic villi are villi that sprout from the chorion to provide maximal contact area with maternal blood.

They are an essential element in pregnancy from a histomorphologic perspective, and are, by definition, a product of conception. Branches of the umbilical arteries carry embryonic blood to the villi. After circulating through the capillaries of the villi, blood returns to the embryo through the umbilical vein. Thus, villi are part of the border between maternal and fetal blood during pregnancy.


Villi can also be classified by their relations:

  • Floating villi float freely in the intervillous space. They exhibit a bi-layered epithelium consisting of cytotrophoblasts with overlaying syncytium (syncytiotrophoblast).
  • Anchoring (stem) villi stabilize mechanical integrity of the placental-maternal interface.


The chorion undergoes rapid proliferation and forms numerous processes, the chorionic villi, which invade and destroy the uterine decidua and at the same time absorb from it nutritive materials for the growth of the embryo. They undergo several stages, depending on their composition.

Stage Description Period of gestation Contents
Primary The chorionic villi are at first small and non-vascular. 13–15 days trophoblast only[1]
Secondary The villi increase in size and ramify, while the mesoderm grows into them. 16–21 days trophoblast and mesoderm[1]
Tertiary Branches of the umbilical artery and umbilical vein grow into the mesoderm, and in this way the chorionic villi are vascularized. 17-22 days trophoblast, mesoderm, and blood vessels[1]

Until about the end of the second month of pregnancy, the villi cover the entire chorion, and are almost uniform in size—but after then, they develop unequally.


The bulk of the villi consist of connective tissues that contain blood vessels. Most of the cells in the connective tissue core of the villi are fibroblasts. Macrophages known as Hofbauer cells are also present.

Clinical significance[edit]

Use for prenatal diagnosis[edit]

In 1983, an Italian biologist named Giuseppe Simoni discovered a new method of prenatal diagnosis using chorionic villi.

Stem cell[edit]

Chorionic villi are a rich source of stem cells. Biocell Center, a biotech company managed by Giuseppe Simoni, is studying and testing these types of stem cells. Chorionic stem cells, like amniotic stem cells, are uncontroversial multipotent stem cells.[2][3][4]


Recet studies indicate that the chorionic villi tissues may be susceptible to pathogenic infections,[5] including viral infections. Indeed, footprints of JC polyomavirus have been detected in chorionic villi from females affected by spontaneous abortion as well as pregnant women.[6] Another virus, BK polyomavirus has been detected in the same tissues, but with lesser extent.[7]

Additional images[edit]

See also[edit]


This article incorporates text in the public domain from page 60 of the 20th edition of Gray's Anatomy (1918)

  1. ^ a b c Larsen, William J. : Human embryology. Sherman, Lawrence S.; Potter, S. Steven; Scott, William J. 3. ed.
  2. ^ "European Biotech Company Biocell Center Opens First U.S. Facility for Preservation of Amniotic Stem Cells in Medford, Massachusetts | Reuters". 2009-10-22. Retrieved 2010-01-11.
  3. ^ "Europe's Biocell Center opens Medford office - Daily Business Update - The Boston Globe". 2009-10-22. Retrieved 2010-01-11.
  4. ^ "The Ticker -". Retrieved 2010-01-11.
  5. ^ Contini C, Rotondo JC, Magagnoli F, Maritati M, Seraceni S, Graziano A (2018). "Investigation on silent bacterial infections in specimens from pregnant women affected by spontaneous miscarriage". J Cell Physiol. 34 (3): 433–440. doi:10.1002/jcp.26952. PMID 30078192.
  6. ^ Tagliapietra A, Rotondo JC, Bononi I, Mazzoni E, Magagnoli F, Maritati M (2019). "Footprints of BK and JC polyomaviruses in specimens from females affected by spontaneous abortion". Hum Reprod. 34 (3): 433–440. doi:10.1002/jcp.27490. PMID 30590693.
  7. ^ Tagliapietra A, Rotondo JC, Bononi I, Mazzoni E, Magagnoli F, Maritati M (2019). "Footprints of BK and JC polyomaviruses in specimens from females affected by spontaneous abortion". Hum Reprod. 34 (3): 433–440. doi:10.1002/jcp.27490. PMID 30590693.

External links[edit]