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    Study: No association between prenatal ultrasound duration and autism


    Can a placenta-on-a-chip be used to analyze placental perfusion?

    A research group has created a placenta-on-a-chip model that they believe can help better illustrate how the placenta determines which molecules are able to get through to the fetal blood stream, according to a study published in Advanced Healthcare Materials. The authors believe that their model, tested using glyburide and heparin, will help screen and predict drug transport much more accurately and ethically than the animal and in vivo alternatives.    

    The model is made up of a small block of silicone that holds two microfluidic channels separated by a porous membrane. The researchers grew human trophoblast cells on one side of the membrane. On the other side, endothelial cells were grown. The layers of these two cell types imitate the placental barrier and, by adding different molecules to the blood-like fluid that travels through the placental barrier, the researchers were able to track the transfer rate to the fetal channel and accumulation levels in the placental barrier.

    Heparin and glyburide have been previously studied via ex vivo placental perfusion and the researchers compared the results of the older studies to the results they saw with the placenta-on-a-chip model. Heparin is understood to be too large of a molecule to pass through the placental barrier and the researchers witnessed the same result from the chip. Glyburide is considered to be safe to use during pregnancy because specialized efflux transporters expressed by the placental tissue prevent drug molecules administered to the mother from reaching the fetus. The placenta-on-a-chip was able to replicate these results as well.

    While further research and testing is necessary before the placenta-on-a-chip adequately replaces the in vivo counterpart for clinical testing, the researchers are pleased with the initial results. Beyond pharmaceutical testing, they hope that they can eventually test placental perfusion on supplements, vitamins, and other compounds that women might take over the course of pregnancy. 

    NEXT: More mothers receiving antihypertensives for preeclampsia; fewer having strokes

    Ben Schwartz
    Ben Schwartz is Associate Editor, Contemporary OB/GYN.
    Judith M. Orvos, ELS
    Judith M. Orvos, ELS, is an editorial consultant for Contemporary OB/GYN.


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