A placenta model using microfluidic technology allows scientists to better understand placental diseases.
Placental malaria causes complications in pregnancy leading to the death of approximately 200,000 newborns and 10,000 mothers annually. Research on the human placenta is ethically and scientifically challenging. Due to the complexity of the exchange between maternal and fetal blood, this has also been difficult to study using in-vitro models.
Researchers from Florida Atlantic University’s (FAU) College of Engineering and Computer Science and Schmidt College of Medicine have created a ‘placenta on a chip’ to simulate blood exchange across the placental barrier using microfluidics allowing them to better study the effects of placental malaria and other placental diseases.
Sarah E. Du, Ph.D., senior author and an associate professor in FAU’s Department of Ocean and Mechanical Engineering commented “Our technology supports formation of microengineered placental barriers and mimics blood circulations, which provides alternative approaches for testing and screening.”
It was discovered that red blood cells infected with Plasmodium falciparum (which causes placental malaria), impeded the transfer of glucose across the placental barrier. This study provides vital information about nutrient exchange across the placenta in cases of malaria infection.
Stella Batalama, Ph.D., dean, FAU College of Engineering and Computer Science said “Studying the molecular transport between maternal and fetal compartments may help to understand some of the pathophysiological mechanisms in placental malaria. Importantly, this novel microfluidic device developed by our researchers at Florida Atlantic University could serve as a model for other placenta-relevant diseases.”
Mosavati B, Oleinikov A, Du E. 3D microfluidics-assisted modeling of glucose transport in placental malaria. Sci Rep. 2022;12(1):15278. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-19422-y