Placental Function and Addictive Substances Workshop - NIDA Brain Development Research Consortium



Additional Information

The placenta is the main transporter of nutrient, metabolites, and substances to the fetus. It is a complex barrier organ that maintains the separate intrauterine fetal environment from the mother while also transporting fetal metabolites and waste back to the mother. Placenta activities and functions impact fetal brain development in all stages of pregnancy. Growing evidence suggests that various abused substances, such as tobacco, cannabinoids, opioids, and alcohol, alter placental structures, activities, and functions. However, knowledge on how these substances affect placenta differentiation and growth, and how such responses by placenta impact its barrier and transportation functions, remain limited. The cellular, molecular, and anatomical changes of placenta caused by abused substances, are poorly understood.

In addition, the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of various substances that are taken up by and cross the placenta, the effective quantity of substances and their metabolites that reach the fetal side of the circulation, and their consequences for fetal development are unknown.

This workshop includes four sessions that will cover Clinical Research, Basic Research and Animal Modeling, Genetics and Epigenetics, and Emerging Technologies. Part of the workshop is jointly organized with staff from NICHD, the sponsoring institute of the successful Human Placenta Project. The workshop will highlight the current state and discoveries of placenta research in the context of in-utero substance exposure. It will also identify barriers and challenges to placenta research, and opportunities and strategies to address these barriers and challenges.


Time Description
11:00 am Welcome and Introduction of Speakers and Discussants
11:10 am Opening Remarks and Charge to the Workshop - Dr. Rita Valentino, Director of Division of Neuroscience and Behavior, NIDA
11:15 am

Session One: Clinical Research

Francesco Busardó, Associate Professor, University Politecnica delle Marche of Ancona, Italy
Title: The Role of Placenta in Prenatal Substance Exposure and Neonatal Consequences

Jashvant Unadkat, Professor, University of Washington
Title: Predicting Fetal Exposure to Drugs Throughout Pregnancy by Physiologically-Based Pharmacokinetic Modeling and Simulations (PBPK M&S)

12: 25 pm  

Session Two: Basic Research and Animal Modeling

Qingcheng Mao, Associate Professor, University of Washington
Title: Use of Pregnant Mouse Models to Understand the Roles of Placental Efflux Transporters in Fetal Drug Exposure

Cheryl Rosenfeld, Professor, University of Missouri
Title: Oxycodone Deleteriously Affects Placental Structure and Gene Expression

1: 35  pm

Session Three: Genetics and Epigenetics

Melissa A. Suter, Assistant Professor, Baylor College of Medicine
Title: Epigenetic Changes in the Placenta Associated with Exposure to Substances of Abuse

Elisha Wachman, Associate Professor, Boston Medical Center
Title: The Genetics and Epigenetics of Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome – What Can the Placenta Tell Us?

2: 45 pm

Session Four: Emerging Technologies

Lauren Aleksunes, Professor, Rutgers University
Title: From Placenta-on-a-Chip to Real-Time Trophoblast Imaging: Novel Approaches to Evaluate Chemical Disposition and Responses

Irina Buhimschi, Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC)
Title: Biomarker Discovery and Validation in Placenta Studies


  • Laura Stroud, Professor, Brown University
  • Carmen Marsit, Professor, Emory University
  • Joseph Cheer, Professor, University of Maryland
  • Elizabeth S. Taglauer, Assistant Professor, Boston University
  • Simona Pichini, Analytical Pharmacotoxicology Unit Head, National Centre on
  • Addiction and Doping, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Italy 


  • Da-Yu Wu, NIDA
  • Matthew Seager, NIDA
  • David Weinberg, NICHD

Questions to be addressed by the workshop include:

  1. The roles and consequences of placenta in fetal substances exposure.
  2. Cellular and molecular changes of placenta, including dysregulation of trophoblasts, receptors, transporters and enzymes, and changes of structures, activities and functions in response to abused substances.
  3. The uptake, metabolism and transport of substances by placenta, and the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying placenta barrier and/or transport functions for substances from mother to fetus.
  4. Genetic and epigenetic changes of placenta due to substance exposure during pregnancy, and their roles and consequences in fetal development.
  5. Innovative technologies for the precise detection and quantitation of fetal substances exposure through placenta.
  6. Biomarkers, circulating extracellular vesicles and other factors associated with substance exposure in mother and fetus though placenta.
  7. Opportunities and emerging technologies to meet the challenges in placenta studies for fetal substance exposure.

Meeting Link:
Meeting number: 182 661 5583
Password: Placenta

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