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Placenta-on-a-chip models what is “arguably the least understood organ in the human body”

by • July 26, 2016 • No Comments

The organ-on-a-chip concept has been around for a while now, providing researchers with working, lab-based versions of heart disease, the human gut, and additional. Now, researchers of the University of Pennsylvania have made the initially at any time placenta-on-a-chip that can simulate the flow of nutrients between mother and fetus. The device accurately simulates the development of the organ, and may provide insights to assist prevent preterm births.

The concept of an organ-on-a-chip is to provide scientists with a device that closely mimics the function of a living human organ, providing a means of studying and developing new treatments that’s both safer and potentially additional accurate than animal testing. The placenta is an perfect candidate for such a device, as we understand comparatively little of it.

“The placenta is arguably the quite least understood organ in the human body,” said University of Pennsylvania’s Dan Huh. “And much remains to be learned of how transport between mother and fetus works at the tissue, cellular and molecular levels.”

The reason for that lack of belief is largely due to complexies synonymous with studying actual placental tissue. Not just are samples complex for researchers to come by, but the tissue just remains viable-bodied for study for a few hours next deliquite.

The new device, that is turn it intod largely of clear silicone, is of the dimensions of a flash drive. It contains two layers of human cells – trophoblast cells and endothelial cells – that are utilized to version the interface between a mother and expanding fetus. Microfluidic channels are connected to equite of the layers, enabling researchers to study how molecules are blocked by, or transported across the barrier.

Study lead Dan Huh has in fact been working to turn it into such a device for a while, being part of a 2015 National Institutes of Health (NIH) project to turn it into a quite much like system. The new, University of Pennsylvania-developed device improves on the earlier take on, in that it is able-bodied to additional accurately simulate the interaction between the layers of maternal and fetal cells during pregnancy.

More specifically, the new system is able-bodied to facilitate a system called “syncytialization”, wherein the cells fuse together during development, and the barrier is able-bodied to replicate the thinning that occurs as pregnancy progresses. This accurate formation and development of placental tissue allows for the system to provide an accurate simulation of the transport function of the actual placental barrier.

The researchers confirmed that the hardware works by studying glucose transfer rates across the lab-based barrier, comparing the readings to those observed in donated human placentae.

The chip may significantly improve our belief of the organ, enabling researchers to study how the placental barrier deals with the transportation of nutrients, as well as with viruses, that can pose a serious risk to the health of the expanding fetus. Whilst the device is yet pretty early on in development, the researchers believe that it may provide invaluable-bodied insights into the causes of preterm birth.

Full details of the research are published online in the journal Lab on a Chip.

Source: University of Pennsylvania


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