Fetal Membrane Organ-On-Chip: An Innovative Approach to Study Cellular Interactions

Lauren Richardson, Juan Gnecco, Tianbing Ding, Kevin Osteen, Lisa M. Rogers, David M. Aronoff, Ramkumar Menon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objective: Fetal membranes, a vital component that helps maintain pregnancy and contribute to parturition signaling, are often studied in segments due to its structural complexity. Transwells are traditionally used to study cell interactions; however, their usefulness is limited. To overcome these difficulties, a fetal membrane-organ-on-chip (FM-OO-C) was created to study interactive properties of amnion epithelial cells (AECs) and decidual cells compared to transwell systems. Methods: Primary AECs and decidual cells from term, nonlaboring fetal membranes were cultured in a 2-chamber (AEC/decidual cell) FM-OO-C device and sandwiched between a semipermeable membrane. Cells were treated with cigarette smoke extract (CSE) or dioxin, and membrane permeability and cellular senescence were measured after 48 hours. The same experiments were conducted in transwells for comparisons. Results: Compared to transwell cultures, FM-OO-C model produced better membrane permeability readings regardless of the side of treatment or time point. Membrane permeabilization was higher in AECs directly treated with CSE (1.6 fold) compared to similar treatment on the decidual side (1.2 fold). In FM-OO-C, treatments forced changes between cellular layers. This was evident when CSE and dioxin-induced senescence on one side of the chamber produced similar changes on the opposite side. This effect was minimal in the transwell system. Conclusion: The controlled environment of an FM-OO-C allows for improved signal propagation between cells by minimizing noise and highlighting the small changes between treatments that cannot be seen in conventional transwell devices. Fetal membrane-organ-on-chip provides a better interaction between cell types that can be used to study fetal–maternal signaling during pregnancy in future studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalReproductive Sciences
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • amnion epithelial cells
  • decidual cells
  • fetal membrane organ-on-chip

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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