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

Julia A. Boos*, Patrick M. Misun, Giulia Brunoldi, Lea A. Furer, Leonie Aengenheister, Mario Modena, Nassim Rousset, Tina Buerki-Thurnherr, Andreas Hierlemann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2100609
JournalAdvanced Biology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • 3D microtissues
  • developmental toxicity
  • embryoid bodies
  • hanging drops
  • microfluidics
  • placenta


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