The Placenta in Toxicology. Part IV: Battery of Toxicological Test Systems Based on Human Placenta.
This review summarizes the potential and also some limitations of using human placentas, or placental cells and structures for toxicology testing. The placenta contains a wide spectrum of cell types and tissues, such as trophoblast cells, immune cells, fibroblasts, stem cells, endothelial cells, vessels, glands, membranes, and many others. It may be expected that in many cases the relevance of results obtained from human placenta will be higher than those from animal models due to species specificity of metabolism and placental structure. For practical and economical reasons, we propose to apply a battery of sequential experiments for analysis of potential toxicants. This should start with using cell lines, followed by testing placenta tissue explants and isolated placenta cells, and finally by application of single and dual side ex vivo placenta perfusion. With each of these steps, the relative workload increases while the number of feasible repeats decreases. Simultaneously, the predictive power enhances by increasing similarity with in vivo human conditions. Toxic effects may be detected by performing proliferation, vitality and cell death assays, analysis of protein and hormone expression, immunohistochemistry or testing functionality of signaling pathways, gene expression, transport mechanisms, and so on. When toxic effects appear at any step, the subsequent assays may be cancelled. Such a system may be useful to reduce costs and increase specificity in testing questionable toxicants. Nonetheless, it requires further standardization and end point definitions for better comparability of results from different toxicants and to estimate the respective in vivo translatability and predictive value.