Bioengineering Seminar Series

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"Topics in Reproductive Biomechanics: Transplacental Transport of Glucose and Biomechanics of Breastfeeding"

David Elad, DSc
Department of Biomedical Engineering
The Iby and Aladar Fleischman Faculty of Engineering
Tel Aviv University, ISRAEL

In utero fetal development and fetal programming for adulthood life are strongly associated with maternal-to-fetal transfer of nutrient and other substances. Transplacental transport of materials takes place at the placental barrier (PB), a multilayered structure that separates between maternal and fetal circulations. They developed a placenta simulator that can mimic feto-maternal blood circulations along with real transport across an in vitro viable model of the PB that mimics the architecture of the human PB. The PB model was made of a co-culture of endothelial cells and trophoblast cells on both sides of a denuded amniotic membrane. Maternal-to-fetal transfer of glucose was monitored over 24 hours and the acquired data was used to explore the permeability characteristics of the PB model.
How do infants extract milk during breastfeeding? Breastfeeding is a dynamic process, which requires coupling between periodic motions of the infant's jaws, rhythmic pulsation of the tongue, and the breast milk ejection reflex. They have resolved a century long scientific controversy; whether it is sucking of the milk by sub-atmospheric pressure or mouthing of the nipple/areola to induce a peristaltic-like extraction mechanism. They developed a dynamic analysis of ultrasound video clips acquired during breastfeeding in order to explore the tongue dynamic characteristics. Then, they have developed a three-dimensional biophysical model of the breast and lactiferous tubes that enabled mimicking the dynamic characteristics of the tongue and nipple observed in ultrasound imaging during breastfeeding. They have shown that latch-on to draw the nipple/areola into the infant mouth, as well as milk extraction during breastfeeding, require development of time varying sub-atmospheric pressures within the infant's oral cavity.


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