Groundbreaking ‘Placenta-On-A-Chip’: A Novel Leap Towards Understanding and Tackling Preeclampsia

a diagram of the placenta-on-a-chip device showing the two chambers and the cell layer

Some very smart folks have come up with a clever little gadget to help understand a tricky problem during pregnancy called preeclampsia.

Preeclampsia isn’t a walk in the park – it’s a tough situation that can cause real problems for both mama-to-be and her little one. It often shows up as high blood pressure, protein popping up in pee, and swollen hands and legs. The exact cause of preeclampsia is a bit of a head-scratcher, but it seems to have something to do with troubles in the placenta. That’s the special organ that works as a kind of postman between mom and baby.

To dive into this mystery, a squad of bright minds from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay and the University of Melbourne have come up with a cool piece of kit they’ve named “placenta-on-a-chip”. This thing is like a model placenta, helping the researchers take a closer peek at how stuff like oxygen levels, hormones, and meds can throw a spanner in the works.

The gadget is made up of two tiny rooms separated by a skinny layer of human cells. One room stands for the mom’s side of the placenta – the place where the blood vessels are busy delivering oxygen and goodies to the baby. The other room represents the baby’s side, where waste gets the boot. By playing around with conditions in each of these rooms, the scientists can pretend they’re in different preeclampsia scenarios and see what happens to the placental cells.

The team are crossing their fingers that this brilliant gadget will give them a lightbulb moment on how to better spot, block, and treat preeclampsia during pregnancy. They’re also hopeful it could help doctors make treatments more personal, by testing out drugs and therapies on the placenta-on-a-chip first.

They’ve chatted about their work in a scientific journal called Lab on a Chip. Now they’re busy bees working on beefing up their gadget, trying it out with different kinds of cells and conditions. They’re also teaming up with doctors and biologists to double-check their findings and make sure they can really help moms and babies in the real world.

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