Item of Interest: NICHD launches Placental Atlas Tool (PAT) to accelerate pregnancy research

Website offers central database, analytic tools, and images

Monday, October 29, 2018
The Placental Atlas Tool logo has the letters PAT with a placenta graphic stylized like a tree in the center of the letter A.

NICHD has launched the Placental Atlas Tool (PAT), a free resource incorporating placental data from publications and public databases into a single website for the research community. PAT, which is accessible on desktop, tablet, and mobile devices, is a reference tool for studying placental development and function throughout pregnancy. Investigators from all backgrounds can use PAT to generate new ideas and build models.

“The placenta is a short-lived organ critical for a healthy pregnancy and a person’s future well-being, yet there’s a lot we don’t know about how it develops,” said John Ilekis, Ph.D., the PAT scientific lead and a program director in NICHD’s Pregnancy and Perinatology Branch. “Big data and web-based research tools have been a boon for all areas of science, and now such a resource exists for placental research.”

PAT mainly focuses on data from human studies and bridges diverse datasets, including the National Library of Medicine’s Gene Expression Omnibus database and Open-i biomedical image repository, into a single source. Researchers can perform differential gene expression analysis and gene set enrichment, as well as visualization of heat maps, pathways, and networks for hypothesis generation or testing.

While most functions in PAT are accessible without registration, creating a free user account provides access to individual researcher workspaces, where it’s possible to save, manage, and download analytics results for research and publications.

PAT is updated monthly to include new placental research data. Additional resources include information on how to obtain placental biospecimens and upcoming research conferences and events. In the future, PAT will also offer a 3D virtual placenta that integrates gene expression data with anatomical images.

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About the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD): NICHD conducts and supports research in the United States and throughout the world on fetal, infant and child development; maternal, child and family health; reproductive biology and population issues; and medical rehabilitation. For more information, visit NICHD’s website.

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