Aug 16, 2018 | By Thomas

Using a high-resolution 3D printing process, researchers from Vienna University of Technology (TU Vienna) in Austria have succeeded in 3D printing an artificial placental barrier on a chip, an advance that can be used to investigate important aspects of nutrient transport from the mother to the foetus.

The bio-chip: this is where the placenta can be studied and analysed. Credit: TU Wien

The placenta ensures the exchange of important substances between the mother and her unborn child, whilst simultaneously blocking other substances from passing through.

"The transport of substances through biological membranes plays an important role in various areas of medicine," said Aleksandr Ovsianikov, professor at the TU Wien university in Vienna.

"These include the blood-brain barrier, ingestion of food in the stomach and intestine, and also the placenta."

Studies have shown that diseases in the mother such as diabetes can have an impact on the unborn child. affect the transport of substances to the foetus. High blood pressure can also affect the transport of substances to the fetus. Until now, it has not been fully understood what the permeability of the placenta depends on. It is incredibly difficult to investigate its function in humans directly.

Tiny structures made of bio-compatible material in the 3D-printer at TU Wien. Credit: TU Wien

Schematics of the artificial placenta. Credit: TU Wien

TU Vienna researchers used a specially developed femtosecond laser-based 3D printing process to produce an artificial placenta model that very closely resembles the natural organ. The process makes it possible to produce customized hydrogel membranes directly within microfluidic chips, which are then populated with placenta cells. This means it is now possible to provide clarity on how the exchange of glucose between mother and child takes place, the researchers said.

“Our chip consists of two areas – one represents the foetus, the other the mother”, explains Denise Mandt, who worked on the project as part of her thesis. “We use a special 3D printing process to produce a partition between them – the artificial placenta membrane.”

Denise Mandt in the lab. Credit: TU Wien

The high-resolution 3D printing involved a hydrogel with good biocompatibility.

"Based on the model of the natural placenta, we produce a surface with small, curved villi. The placenta cells can then colonise it, creating a barrier very similar to the natural placenta," Ovsianikov explained.

Initial tests have already shown that the artificial placenta on the chip does in fact behave in a similar way to a natural placenta: small molecules are allowed to pass through, while large ones are held back, the researchers noted. The model is now intended to be used specifically to investigate important aspects of nutrient transport from the mother to the foetus.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



Maybe you also like:


Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to Feeds twitter facebook   

About provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive