The placenta is the organ connecting mother and embryo. Its main functions are the exchange of nutrients, gases and metabolic products and the production of hormones and other substances essential for embryonic development. Placental malfunctions are the main cause of pregnancy complications and can lead to miscarriage and other serious disorders that endanger both mother and child. So far, the mechanisms underlying these disorders remain largely unexplained, not least because, up until now, there has been no reliable human cell culture model system.
Over the last few years, 3D tissue culture models, called organoids, have rapidly been established for many different human organs. A significant advantage of the placenta organoids is their capacity for self-organisation, self-renewal and constant growth. This organoid model system can also be pharmacologically and genetically manipulated. This opens up new possibilities for studying physiological and pathophysiological processes of the human placenta.