Author Interviews, OBGYNE / 10.12.2017 Interview with: Daniel C Benyshek, PhD Professor, Department of Anthropology Adjunct Professor, UNLV School of Medicine Co-Director, Metabolism, Anthropometry and Nutrition Lab UNLV Sharon M. Young, PhD (first author) What is the background for this study? Response: Over the last several decades, human maternal placentophagy (postpartum ingestion of the placenta by the mother) has emerged as a rare but increasingly popular practice among women in industrialized countries seeking its many purported health benefits. Human placentophagy advocates, including many midwives, placenta encapsulation specialists, lactation consultants, and mothers who have experienced positive results previously from the practice, regularly claim improved lactation, energy levels, and postpartum mood, among other benefits, as a result of placentophagy. These advocates regularly speculate that these self-reported effects are likely due to (beneficial) changes to postpartum maternal hormone profiles as a result of the practice. While maternal placentophagy is ubiquitous among land mammals, including our closest primate relatives, recent research has shown that human maternal placentophagy is unknown as a traditional cultural practice. The conspicuous cross-cultural absence of maternal placentophagy among humans (as a long-standing traditional practice) thus remains a mystery. Our study is an important first step in the scientific (evolutionary and clinical) investigation of this rare but increasingly popular maternal practice. Our study was a double-blind, and placebo controlled trial, meaning that there was a placenta group and a placebo group, and the participants and researchers didn't know which supplement a participant had until the end of the study. We included 27 healthy women, recruited during pregnancy, who met with the researchers 4 times across pregnancy and early postpartum. At each meeting, they answered questionnaires on topics of interest (e.g., mood, energy, bonding, social support etc.), and we collected blood and saliva samples. At the first two meetings, they were not yet taking a placenta or placebo supplement, so we could collect baseline measures for their hormones and questionnaire data. After the second meeting, they were instructed to take either placenta or placebo supplements. Once the study had ended, we compared data between the two groups to identify any differences. (more…)
Author Interviews, OBGYNE, Technology, University of Pennsylvania / 24.06.2015

Dan Dongeun Huh, Ph.D. Wilf Family Term Chair & Assistant Professor Department of Bioengineering University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA Interview with: Dan Dongeun Huh, Ph.D. Wilf Family Term Chair & Assistant Professor Department of Bioengineering University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA 19104 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The placenta is a temporary organ central to pregnancy and serves as a major interface that tightly regulates transport of various endogenous and exogenous materials between mother and fetus.  The placental barrier consisting of the closely apposed trophoblast epithelium and fetal capillary endothelium is responsible for maintaining this critical physiological function, and its dysfunction leads to adverse pregnancy outcomes.  Despite its importance, barrier function of the placenta has been extremely challenging to study due to a lack of surrogate models that faithfully recapitulate the key features of the placental barrier in humans.  Our study aims to directly address this long-standing technical challenge by providing a microengineered in vitro system that replicates architecture, microenvironment, and physiological function of the human placenta barrier.  This “placenta-on-a-chip” device consists of microfabricated upper and lower cell culture chambers separated by a thin semipermeable membrane, and the placental barrier is generated by culturing human trophoblasts and fetal endothelial cells on either side of the membrane with steady flows of culture media in both chambers.  This microfluidic cell culture condition allowed the cells to form confluent monolayers on the membrane surface and to create a bi-layer tissue that resembled the placental barrier in vivo.  Moreover, the microengineered barrier enabled transport of glucose from the maternal chamber to the fetal compartment at physiological rates. (more…)