Studying the placenta and the ways in which materials can move across the maternal-fetal barrier is important to prenatal research, but it can be difficult and time-consuming. However, new research is providing a way for these processes to be studied more easily: a “placenta on a chip”!

Previously, cell and animal studies have been important in the understanding of placental processes. Studying human placentas would take quite a bit of time and could also be dangerous to the mother and fetus. But now, this “placenta on a chip” can allow researchers to gain insight into human placental processes in a whole new way. A semi-permeable membrane between two chambers mimics the maternal-fetal barrier, and scientists can study the ways that different materials can pass through this barrier.

It’s important to note that previous animal studies were essential in the development of this technology. Without the information gained from animal models, researchers wouldn’t be able to build a working model of an organ like this. And this “placenta on a chip” should not only improve research efficiency, it should also help reduce the number of animals used in research. Good news for everyone! Read more about this research here.

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