The role of morphology in mathematical models of placental gas exchange

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2016 Jan 1;120(1):17-28. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00543.2015. Epub 2015 Oct 22.


The performance of the placenta as a gas exchanger has a direct impact on the future health of the newborn. To provide accurate estimates of respiratory gas exchange rates, placenta models need to account for both the physiology of exchange and the organ morphology. While the former has been extensively studied, accounting for the latter is still a challenge. The geometrical complexity of placental structure requires use of carefully crafted approximations. We present here the state of the art of respiratory gas exchange placenta modeling and demonstrate the influence of the morphology description on model predictions. Advantages and shortcomings of various classes of models are discussed, and experimental techniques that may be used for model validation are summarized. Several directions for future development are suggested.

Keywords: diffusing capacity; experimental techniques; flow patterns; histomorphometry; porous medium.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Diffusion
  • Female
  • Gases / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Placenta / anatomy & histology*
  • Placenta / metabolism*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pulmonary Gas Exchange / physiology


  • Gases