Microfluidic Co-Culture Platform to Recapitulate the Maternal-Placental-Embryonic Axis

Adv Biol (Weinh). 2021 Aug;5(8):e2100609. doi: 10.1002/adbi.202100609. Epub 2021 Jun 19.


Safety assessment of the effects of developmental toxicants on pregnant women is challenging, and systemic effects in embryo-maternal interactions are largely unknown. However, most developmental toxicity studies rely on animal trials, while in vitro platforms that recapitulate the maternal-placental-embryonic axis are missing. Here, the development of a dedicated microfluidic device for co-cultivation of a placental barrier and 3D embryoid bodies to enable systemic toxicity testing at the embryo-maternal interface is reported. The microfluidic platform features simple handling and recuperation of both tissue models, which facilitates post-hoc in-depth analysis at the tissue and single-cell level. Gravity-driven flow enables inter-tissue communication through the liquid phase as well as simple and robust operation and renders the platform parallelizable. As a proof of concept and to demonstrate platform use for systemic embryotoxicity testing in vitro, maternal exposure to plastic microparticles is emulated, and microparticle effects on the embryo-placental co-culture are investigated.

Keywords: 3D microtissues; developmental toxicity; embryoid bodies; hanging drops; microfluidics; placenta.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Embryoid Bodies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lab-On-A-Chip Devices
  • Microfluidics*
  • Placenta*
  • Pregnancy