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placentas in a dish

Little is known by the public about the placenta but in fact it’s absolutely essential for supporting the baby as it grows inside the mother. When it doesn’t function properly, it can result in serious problems, from pre-eclampsia to miscarriage, with immediate and lifelong consequences for both mother and child.

But our knowledge of this important organ is very limited because of a lack of good experimental models. Animals are too dissimilar to humans to provide a good model of placental development and implantation, and stem cell studies have largely proved unsuccessful

But one group of University Cambridge researchers have now created  ‘mini-placentas’ – a cellular model growing long term in 3D of the early stages of the placenta – that could provide a ‘window’ into early pregnancy and help transform our understanding of reproductive disorders. Details of this new research will be published today in the journal Nature next Wednesday.  The SMC invited the authors of the study to come along and brief journalists on their placentas in a dish.



Dr. Margherita Turco, Dorothy Hodgkin/Royal Society Fellow and lead author

Ms Lucy Gardner, Chief Technician

Prof. Graham Burton, Director of Centre for Trophoblast Research. University of Cambridge

Prof. Ashley Moffett, Prof. of Reproductive Immunology (Emeritus)

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