• Human placental oxygenation in late gestation: experimental and theoretical approaches

      Nye, Gareth; Ingram, Emma; Jenson, Oliver; Johnstone, Edward; Schneider, Henning; Lewis, Rohan; Chernyavsky, Igor; Brownbill, Paul; University of Manchester, University of Southampton, University of Bern (Wiley, 2018-01-26)
      The placenta is crucial for life. It is an ephemeral but complex organ acting as the barrier interface between maternal and fetal circulations, providing exchange of gases, nutrients, hormones, waste products and immunoglobulins. Many gaps exist in our understanding of the detailed placental structure and function, particularly in relation to oxygen handling and transfer in healthy and pathological states in utero. Measurements to understand oxygen transfer in vivo in the human are limited, with no general agreement on the most appropriate methods. An invasive method for measuring partial pressure of oxygen in the intervillous space through needle electrode insertion at the time of Caesarean sections has been reported. This allows for direct measurements in vivo whilst maintaining near normal placental conditions; however, there are practical and ethical implications in using this method for determination of placental oxygenation. Furthermore, oxygen levels are likely to be highly heterogeneous within the placenta. Emerging non-invasive techniques, such as MRI, and ex vivo research are capable of enhancing and improving current imaging methodology for placental villous structure and increase the precision of oxygen measurement within placental compartments. These techniques, in combination with mathematical modelling, have stimulated novel cross-disciplinary approaches that could advance our understanding of placental oxygenation and its metabolism in normal and pathological pregnancies, improving clinical treatment options and ultimately outcomes for the patient.
    • Quantifying the impact of tissue metabolism on solute transport in feto-placental microvascular networks

      Nye, Gareth; Erlich, Alexander; Brownbill, Paul; Chernyavsky, Igor; Jenson, Oliver; University of Manchester (Royal Society, 2019-08-16)
      The primary exchange units in the human placenta are terminal villi, in which fetal capillary networks are surrounded by a thin layer of villous tissue, separating fetal from maternal blood. To understand how the complex spatial structure of villi influences their function, we use an image-based theoretical model to study the effect of tissue metabolism on the transport of solutes from maternal blood into the fetal circulation. For solute that is taken up under first-order kinetics, we show that the transition between flow-limited and diffusion-limited transport depends on two new dimensionless parameters defined in terms of key geometric quantities, with strong solute uptake promoting flow-limited transport conditions. We present a simple algebraic approximation for solute uptake rate as a function of flow conditions, metabolic rate and villous geometry. For oxygen, accounting for nonlinear kinetics using physiological parameter values, our model predicts that villous metabolism does not significantly impact oxygen transfer to fetal blood, although the partitioning of fluxes between the villous tissue and the capillary network depends strongly on the flow regime