A study, published in ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering, describes a newly developed placenta-on-a-chip that replicates the functions of the placenta membrane. The microfluidic device mimics conditions in the body as it allows placental cells to grow and function.
Researchers implanted the three-layer microfluidic device with human trophoblasts (representing the mother’s cells) and endothelial cells (representing fetal cells). The porous membrane between the two cell layers enabled a placental barrier to be developed by the tissues.
The newly developed placenta-on-a-chip was then utilized to investigate the effect of bacteria on the human placenta. It was demonstrated that once E.coli was added to the maternal layer, inflammation and cell death were triggered in both the adjoining maternal and fetal cells.
It is hoped that the microfluidic device could help scientists to explore and understand the mechanisms of how bacterial infections affect preterm delivery, also aiding future treatment.
Sources: Jianhua Qin et al. Placental barrier-on-a-chip: modeling placental inflammatory responses to bacterial infection. ACS Biomat. Sci. Eng. doi:10.1021/acsbiomaterials.8b00653 (2018); https://phys.org/news/2018-08-placenta-barrier-on-a-chip-premature-births.html#jCp