In 2014, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) launched the Human Placenta Project (HPP) with the intent to develop new tools to study safely, non-invasively, and in real-time how the placenta develops and functions across pregnancy. This would not only help develop a more complete understanding of the maternal/fetal/placental ecosystem biology, but it would also assist health care providers by enabling the diagnosis of placental dysfunction at earlier pregnancy time points.
On May 10-11, 2021, NICHD's HPP will host HPP Meeting 2021. This meeting will bring together multidisciplinary experts and broad thinkers to discuss lessons learned from HPP research to date and engage in active discussions about possible future directions for HPP and placental research.
The goal of HPP Meeting 2021 is to answer two broad questions:
1. What is the current state of placental knowledge and assessment capability?
2. What are the key gaps and opportunities that need to be addressed going forward?
To prepare for the meeting, will are asking members of the clinical and research communities to weigh in on proposed research topics and objectives. Input will be collected in three phases. Phase one will be open until April 26. Subsequent phases will follow.
Please review and discuss the topic themes and objectives below by Monday, April 26, 2021. The discussions within this platform will be a key part of HPP Meeting 2021, bringing the interaction and inclusivity of an in-person meeting to the worldwide access and convenience of a virtual one. To help shape feedback, we have listed questions to consider.
NICHD invites feedback on the following:
- Do the proposed themes and objectives capture the current direction and provide inspiration for future HPP goals?
- Do the proposed themes and objectives cover the needs and priorities of all stakeholders, both patients and providers?
- Are there noticeable gaps or missing opportunities? Is NIH going in the right direction for its HPP research plan, its research themes, or its objectives? Share your ideas for new research themes or for new objectives within an existing theme that have not yet been proposed.
THEME A: Basic Placenta Research
- A1. Identify the most significant recent achievements (technical/understanding) that position the field to gain a deeper understanding of human placenta development and function and support their advancement.
- A2. Address the key knowledge gaps that hinder our capability to understand placenta development and function across pregnancy within the maternal/fetal/placenta ecosystem.
- A3. Determine the impact of sexual dimorphism on placenta development and function across gestation.
- A4. Provide solutions to the key technology challenges that hinder advancing understanding of human placenta development and function.
- A5. Leverage novel models that offer unique opportunities for generating new biological insights. (organoids, multi-component integrated tissue on a chip systems, iPSCs, etc.)
THEME B: Circulating Factors for Assessing Placental Health Across Gestation
- B1. Identify the circulating factors that currently best reflect placenta developmental/functional status across gestation.
- B2. Develop methods to integrate the vast amounts of independent measurements and allow meaningful analysis.
- B3. Apply cutting-edge advances for measuring circulating factors from maternal blood, urine, and saliva to the assessment of placenta functional status.
- B4. Identify opportunities for developing point of care measurements of circulating factors especially for use in low resource settings.
- B5. Define the barriers to the clinical utility of identified factors, whether identified from humans or from animal models.
- B6. Investigate the potential for leveraging technologies being utilized in other areas of health care (e.g., cancer) that might be applied to placental assessment and treatment (e.g., novel analytics, machine learning, etc.)
THEME C: Clinical Biomarkers for Assessing Placental Health Across Gestation
- C1. Identify measurements that currently provide the best clinical utility for assessing pregnancy status and placental health at early, intermediate, and late times in pregnancy.
- C2. Identify measurements that may offer clinical utility but which need further clinical validation.
- C3. Determine barriers to patient stratification and use of clinical data for real-time patient decision-making.
- C4. Develop point-of-care technologies that enable rapid real-time clinical results.
- C5. Apply augmented intelligence systems for processing and interpreting data from individuals and populations. This may include the development of intelligent systems for processing the multi-modal data available from existing and new sensing systems applicable to laboratory and community settings.
THEME D: MRI for Assessing Placental Health Across Gestation
- D1. Identify the current most advanced approaches for use of MRI in the assessment of placenta function at early, middle, and late times in pregnancy and support their continued progression.
- D2. Develop strategies for providing care to the full range of body types.
- D3. Identify the major barriers to Clinical Translation and develop a path for progression (training, technology, clinical validation, cost, patient acceptability).
- D4. Investigate the potential for MRI adaptation for use in low resource settings (e.g., Hyperfine).
- D5. Evaluate the potential for machine learning to improve the capability of MRI assessment of placenta function across pregnancy.
THEME E: Ultrasound for Assessing Placental Health Across Gestation
- E1. Identify the current most advanced approaches for use of Ultrasound in the assessment of placenta function at early, middle and late times in pregnancy and support their continued progression.
- E2. Identify the major barriers to Clinical Translation and develop a path for progression (training, technology, clinical validation, cost, patient acceptability).
- E3. Investigate the opportunities for adjacent technologies (NIRS, Umbilical Wave Refection) to provide complimentary assessments of placental development and function.
- E4. Identify the challenges and opportunities for deployment of ultrasound technology for placenta assessment in low resource settings.
- E5. Evaluate the potential for machine learning to improve the capability of ultrasound assessment of placenta function across pregnancy.
THEME F: Planning Translation – Hearing all Voices
- F1. Investigate health disparities and intervene to reduce their impact on the effectiveness, implementation, and uptake of technologies and approaches for pregnancy monitoring.
- F2. Identify the Key Barriers to the inclusive distribution of novel technologies across diverse social, cultural, and socioeconomic settings.
- F3. Include patients as partners in the research enterprise.
- F4. Communicate with patient advocacy groups and community leaders to gain insights into the key concerns they have identified among their communities and to build trust.
- F5. Provide a strategy for recruiting individuals with disabilities and underrepresented minority groups into the field of placental research.
THEME G: Envisioning the Future
- G1. Advance technologies such as wearable technologies and home use devices that empower pregnant persons and facilitate the continuous assessment of pregnancy status and placental health and function.
- G2. Identify the barriers preventing full utilization of imaging, omics, and electronic medical records for effective assessment of pregnancy status and placental health and function.
- G3. Explore the potential of novel technologies (e.g., nanoparticles) and therapeutics targeted to the placenta for correcting problems with placenta development or function.
- G4. Investigate health disparities and potential interventions to reduce their impact on the effectiveness, implementation, and uptake of approaches and technologies that help assess pregnancy status and placental function across gestation.
- G5. Perform landscape analysis of technologies being utilized in other areas of health care that might be applied to placental assessment and treatment.
Submitting a Response
Community responses are voluntary. Do not include proprietary, classified, confidential or sensitive information in a response.
Comments may be compiled for discussion and may appear in related reports. Any personal identifiers (names, e-mail addresses, etc.) will be removed when responses are compiled. Processed, anonymized results will be shared internally with NIH staff members and any member of scientific working groups convened by the HPP, as appropriate.
If you provide your contact information, NIH Program staff may contact you and may invite you to present concepts for discussion at the HPP Meeting 2021. There will be no obligation to do so, and responses will otherwise be considered confidential.
This community is intended for information and planning purposes only and should not be construed as a solicitation or as an obligation on the part of the federal government. The NIH does not intend to make any awards based on responses gathered through this community or to otherwise pay for the preparation of any information submitted or for the government's use of such information.
Responses must be submitted by 11:59 pm (EST) April 26, 2021, and will inform discussions at the virtual HPP Meeting 2021 on May 10-11.
Visit the NICHD Human Placenta Project website for more information.
Please direct all scientific inquiries to:
David Weinberg, Ph.D.
Project Lead, Human Placenta Project, NICHD
Please direct all technical inquiries to:
Health Science Policy Analyst, NICHD