A Fitbit for Your Placenta: Researchers Have Developed A Device That Can Track The Mysterious Organ In Real Time,

and can help unlock the key to a healthy pregnancy.

placentas get a kind of disreputable.

This is possibly because of all the fuss about mothers that their placentas are mixed in smoothies and feed on them, which is not something most women. Even beyond the ritual associations organ, the way people talk about the placenta is implicitly dismissive.

“is described as the” placenta ‘ “said Catherine Spong, an obstetrician / gynecologist and acting director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).” As it is only one thing that comes out after . It is an underappreciated body, and has been poorly studied. “

To appreciate the placenta, we must recognize that it is responsible for the maintenance of a fetus as it grows into a baby, which is attached by the umbilical cord to the placenta embedded in the wall of the uterus of a pregnant woman.

Through this agreement, the placenta provides nutrients and oxygen to the fetus, eliminates waste, regulates fetal temperature, produces hormones, and performs other crucial tasks of pregnancy. For a body to perform many jobs-duties that otherwise would be handled by the various organs, it is extraordinary.

Just remarkably is the fact that doctors and scientists know very little about the placenta, in relation to their importance. During the past two years, researchers at the National Institutes of Health human placenta project-with more than $ 50 million in funds-have been trying to correct this omission.

One of his greatest challenges, and one that is the center of its mission, is to better understand the placenta in real time.

Most of what we know about the placenta comes from having studied after pregnancy is complete. This makes sense: A placenta is easier to examine, from a practical standpoint and an ethical issue, once available for scientific study. That happens once the mother and baby are not using anymore.

“But in a way, looking at the placenta after pregnancy are looking at a stump tree trunk and try to understand what the tree was like like a tree,” says Spong. “As the fetus grows, so does the placenta. And it is very different at 20 weeks compared to 30 weeks compared to 40 weeks.”

During pregnancy, the placenta becomes larger with time, cracks and folds and unfolds. It is not only the structure changes, but function, too. In early pregnancy, placental cells are dedicated to invade the uterine lining of the store, is created, in essence.

As the weeks pass, the placenta removes debris as the kidneys and liver; It is providing oxygenation as the lungs; and manages the circulation. That is, if the placenta is functioning as it should.

grave results in a pregnancy is often thought to be related to problems with the placenta, but given the limitations of what is known about the body, it is often impossible to determine what went wrong.

Even when researchers are able to study a young placenta, when a woman gives birth prematurely, there are inherent limitations to what they can learn.

Because preterm birth is not a normal result in a healthy pregnancy, a placenta of a woman giving birth prematurely is not necessarily normal.

“A lot of complications that a woman-hypertension or even restricting the growth of a baby-thought it might come from a problem with oxygenation [of the placenta],” said Afrouz Anderson, a member post-doctoral in the NICHD.

“So there’s a mystery that we are trying to solve there. The problem is that nobody knows what the placenta standard oxygenation [should be] to start in a normal pregnancy.”

To find out, Anderson and a colleague have developed a hand-held imaging device that can be placed in the abdomen of a pregnant woman.

The portable device works by shining near-infrared light in the direction of the placenta, then measure the wavelengths of the reflected light to detect placental oxygenation. (Pregnant women who are already accustomed to imaging technologies as a routine part of prenatal care, ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of a developing fetus.)

Once researchers understand optimal oxygenation levels, such a device could be used to track levels of oxygenation of the placenta in women with high risk pregnancies. A colleague in the NICHD compares this track a Fitbit-only glow in the placenta, rather than carry on his wrist in real time.

That analogy is quite likely not make a tracker account the steps of the exercise, while measures of oxygenation monitoring placenta, but both devices promise useful data without being heavy to the person using them.

“Any intervention measure may perhaps harm the baby,” said Amir Gandjbakhche, the head of Analytical and Functional Biophotonics at the NICHD, and one of the developers of the device.

“The good thing about ours is the amount of light that we are sending is like a flashlight. It’s portable. It’s wireless. It is extremely safe.”

Gandjbakhche and Anderson have two of these devices in the work waiting to be approved for wider use. If that happens, they are hoping that researchers will soon better understand one of the most essential functions of the placenta, and doctors will be able to detect dangerous conditions, such as preeclampsia and problems with fetal growth before that serious health risks arise.

Meanwhile, the human placenta project is pushing forward with its mission to understand the in vivo placenta, rather than simply in vitro.

“It is the only organ that grows and discard and grow again,” says Spong. “And let these two genetically different entities can coexist and thrive. It is a very, very important organ.”

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