Duke researchers create model of active placenta

Duke University professor George Truskey has collaborated with researchers at the Duke University School of Medicine to create a model of the human placenta that will help researchers study preterm birth issues such as pre-eclampsia, according to a university article.
One of the reasons researchers don't understand pregnancy well is they don't understand the human placenta, which is extremely complex," Liping Feng, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology said in the article. Feng, who studies pregnancy complications and improving pregnancy outcomes, said: “The placenta is one of the most under-studied organs because we lack a model for research.”

Feng approached Truskey to help with the project because of his expertise in microfluidics—the manipulation of small amounts of fluid—and his pioneering research in engineering model tissues and blood vessels, according to the article.

Truskey is a BMES fellow and a former president of the Society.

Truskey's lab developed a polycarbonate membrane that is seeded with placental cells drawn from patients who have had a C-section and given consent for a research donation of the placenta. A channel above and below the membrane allows the researchers to draw fluid across at a very low rate, mimicking blood flow through an active placenta. Ultimately, they wish to dissect the route that molecules and virus particles take as they travel between mother and fetus.

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