In early 2019, a team from the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF) visited the labs of Prof. Wadsack at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology to report about the basic research Projects conducted at the Medical University Graz. A special focus of the report was the so-called Placenta Perfusion lab. The human placenta is a temporary organ attached to the wall of the uterus of the mother and is connecting the unborn unborn to its mother. It provides the Fetus with oxygen and nutrients. At the same time, it also removes waste products from the fetus.
Different cell layers of the placenta separate transfer mechanisms between mother and fetus. These transfer mechanisms, highly specific for many substances are consisting of complex processes. The approval of pharmaceuticals is usually limited for non-pregnant women. For pregnant women however, no clinical trials are available due to ethical reasons.
Scientists at the Medical University therefore established an “ex vivo” placental perfusion model. The method used at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology is the most reliable Approach to study human placental transfer and the fetal exposure to specific substances without endangering mother or child.
In order to carry out perfusion experiments, the placenta needs to be installed into the perfusion chamber within 15 minutes after birth. By connecting it to a nutrient solution, the function of the placenta is preserved over several hours and the substance transfer between mother and fetus is simulated. Consequently, testing of exposure to pharmaceuticals, nanoparticles, environmental pollutants and other substances with possible transfer to the fetal circuit or damages of the placenta can be carried out. One aspect the lab of Christian Wadsack is particularly studying is the trans-placental transport of immunotherapeutic drugs used in breast cancer therapies.
The TV report also gave insight into the research conducted by the 14 PhD students within DP-iDP. Within a short interview, Prof. Wadsack stated that inflammatory diseases of the mother such as diabetes and hypertension are also problematic for the unborn child, because later on these children are at a higher risk of expressing those illnesses as well.