A team of medical researchers has managed to develop a placenta-on-a-chip, a device which will allow researchers to find out more about the fetus and the pregnancy itself. The study was published in the Journal Of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine and the research team involved in the study consisted of researchers from the Wayne State University, the University of Pennsylvania, the Asan Medical Center from South Korea and the National Institutes of Health’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
The placenta is a temporary organ which forms during pregnancy. It is a semi-permeable barrier between the fetus and the mother, but at the same time it allows substances such as nutrients and oxygen to reach the fetus while protecting it from harmful materials like bacteria and viruses. The placenta-on-a-chip was designed in order to understand how the placenta can perform these tasks so efficiently.
Roberto Romero from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development declared that he does not support animal experiment even though they have do perform them too. However using this chip does not require animal experiments, at least not in the initial stage. The device is very cheap, it costs ten dollars and it takes a day to manufacture it and a week to grow cells in it. In addition it is a more efficient method than working with mice since the placenta is different in humans and mice.
Researches of this type are conducted at micro levels. The placenta-on-a-chip mimics the way the organ functions. It is considered that this method will be more often employed than analyzing cells in dishes because it is a more accurate and cheaper technology
The device developed by the researchers has a pair of chambers which are separated by a semi-permeable barrier. One of the cells contains the maternal cells collected from the placenta and the other chamber holds the fetal cells from the umbilical cord. After adding glucose to the device the scientists observed how the carbohydrates passed through the system. The artificial placenta worked almost exactly as the natural organ.
Romero commented on the placenta-on-a-chip experiment:
“The chip may allow us to do experiments more efficiently and at a lower cost than animal studies. With further improvements, we hope this technology may lead to better understanding of normal placental processes and placental disorders.”
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