The overall objective is to develop state-of-the-art models to mimic the placenta in vitro.
The placenta rapidly develops structurally and functionally throughout gestation and is a unique organ, having blood supply from two organisms. The placenta is made up of maternal and fetal vessels, with numerous highly branched villi lined with trophoblasts (syncytio) facilitating gaseous, nutrient and waste exchange.
Currently, tissue culture using explants from delivered placenta offers the only routine method to study the whole multicellular placenta ex vivo. This restricts our ability to understand the dynamic cellular interaction in normal and diseased placenta, since the explants are from delivered term placenta and are no longer under the same haemodynamic forces.
The overall objective is to characterise and validate new methodologies for in vivo placenta modelling and clinical prediction of early/late onset preeclampsia (PE) and intra-uterine growth restriction (IUGR).
Early prediction of pregnancies at risk from PE or IUGR will not only allow stratification of resources: it will provide insight into pathological mechanisms or identification of a window or target for therapeutic intervention.
Animal models have proven to be essential tools furthering our understanding of cardiovascular disease as proof-of-concept, due to the wide availability of different transgenic mouse strains, high level of temporally and cellular genetic control, and the well-documented embryotic development. Yet, animal models investigating PE and IUGR have been restricted by questions of reproducibility and relevance to clinical phenotype. Standardising protocols for in vivo models and characterisation in relation to clinical assessment is essential to prevent duplication of results and discrepancy between scientific findings.
The adaptation of tools is key to providing the ability to assess similar clinical parameters in animal models: Working with Moor Instruments, LSI will be adapted to allow minimally invasive visualisation of organ perfusion such as the placenta to assess perfusion as a surrogate of oxygenation.