Molecular mechanisms of environmental toxin cadmium at the feto-maternal interface investigated using an organ-on-chip (FMi-OOC) model

Sungjin Kim, Lauren Richardson, Enkhtuya Radnaa, Zunwei Chen, Ivan Rusyn, Ramkumar Menon, Arum Han

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Human labor is associated with feto-maternal-derived signals that coordinate to initiate delivery. Exposure to environmental chemicals can prematurely trigger labor-initiating signals at the feto-maternal interface (FMi: decidua, amniochorion), leading to spontaneous preterm birth (PTB). Testing the association between environmental chemical exposure and PTB is difficult due to many in vivo or in vitro limitations. Physiological organ-on-chips (OOCs) are potential alternatives for studying mechanisms leading to PTB. The presented study tested the effect of maternal exposure to cadmium (Cd), an environmental toxin, using the FMi-OOC that incorporates maternal decidua cells and three different fetal cells (chorion, amnion mesenchymal, and amnion epithelial cells). Cd transport through the FMi and its impact on cell cycle, cell death, and inflammation were analyzed. Cd treatment resulted in significant cell death and a pro-inflammatory environment in the maternal decidua, but had minimal effect on the fetal chorion cells, and no effect in the fetal amnion cells compared to controls. The maternal response, but lack of fetal response, indicates that Cd-mediated adverse effects originate from maternal pathophysiology rather than fetal-derived triggers of preterm labor. This study demonstrates that the FMi-OOC can indeed predict the response of FMi upon exposure to chemicals, opening the possibility for using OOC models for environmental toxin screens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number126759
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
StatePublished - Jan 15 2022


  • Cadmium toxicity
  • Decidua
  • Fetal membrane
  • Inflammation
  • Organ-on-chip
  • Preterm birth
  • Toxicity testing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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