3D Printed Placenta Poised to Help Explain Organ Development

Pictures of organoid development from the study, showing the locations of different kinds of cells. Part of the reason the study was undertaken was to understand where different cells (Image courtesy of Haider et al, 2018.)

European researchers have 3D printed a simplified, organic model of the human placenta, and hope to use it for studying the organ’s development.

On August 2nd, 2018 researchers at the Medical University of Vienna released a study detailing their creation of a placenta organoid. An organoid is a smaller, simplified, 3D version of an organ, 3Dprinted out of stem cells. 

The 3D shape is important; a cells’ development is shaped by connection and communication with neighboring cells, and so cells grown in 2D environments like petri dishes aren’t accurate models of cells in organs.

In recent years, organoids have become more popular as a method for researching how organs react and respond to different drugs. In fact, researchers at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine have even connected tiny heart, liver, and lung organoids into a “body on a chip” to test different drug interactions. But the study of placentas isn’t as well-developed as the study of other organs.

This study has several important firsts: it’s the first three-dimensional 3D-printed placenta, the first self-renewing 3D-printed placenta (which means that stem cells keep forming new tissue), and the first 3D-printed placenta to contain all three kinds of trophoblasts, the cells to make up the placenta.

“No organoid system for the human placenta was available before,” said Martin Knöfler, one of the researchers. “In the past, preparations of primary trophoblast cells didn’t survive longer than approximately one week.”

Read more at ENGINEERING.com

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