Scientific advancements in biotechnology and 3D imaging of the human body has led to the development of real-time virtual and in-vitro hybrid models for better and safer healthcare development. This is also the main focus of the new EU Green Deal LifeSaver project, which stands for “Living Impact on Fetal Evolution: Shelter – Analyse – Validate – Empower Regulations.”
LifeSaver endeavours to address the unmet healthcare needs related to safeguarding fetal-maternal health especially during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy (the first trimester), which is the most critical period in fetal development.
How Does the LifeSaver Project Work?
LifeSaver deploys a scientifically-based combination of tools and methodologies developed to assess the potential harm of pharma products (drugs) and environmental toxins to a human fetus due their transport through placental tissues. The research utilises a model termed a “Biodigital Twin model” (BDT), which is a real-time, working combination of in-vitro + in-silico model that is aimed at an effective replication of an early pregnancy state.
In this way scientists could assess the effects of transfer of specific medications that are sometimes used to treat a woman during pregnancy, either for chronic or acute illnesses and do so in a way that would not threaten an actual human pregnancy.
Scientists further could study the effects of the common pollutants and toxins currently found in our living environment. These chemicals build up in human tissue preconception and can lead into the improper development of the fetus during gestation.
At present, there is no way to do clinical tests in a pregnant woman safely and ethically nor study the effects of microplastics, toxins, or volatile organic compounds found in our environment.
The LifeSaver model paves a novel way for a scientific team to introduce these chemical and pharmacological elements into the bio digital twin model, allowing them to elicit responses for scientific and medical data that cannot be generated otherwise.
With the use of this system, LifeSaver scientists can create innovations that directly impact the route of medical care on a pregnant human mother and her fetus.
What areas of research will the LifeSaver project focus on?
One area of study involves the formulation of potential ways of transport of medications and chemicals in in vitro elements mimicking the placental functionality, where the data extracted from to assist in the formulation of medication dosing for safer use during pregnancy.
The second area utilises these data and generates mathematically-based “model-free models” regarding chemical and toxin exposures which leads to predictive in silico tools enabling better regulations for the improvement of chemical and pollution legislation. This comprises an increased awareness within the medical community, governmental level, and individual level about the need for restrictions on the use of chemical and pollutant elements in daily living.
These studies, which are combined into “bio-digital twin”, are unique in a way as pregnant female and fetus cannot be a subject to experimental massive clinical trials with necessary accuracy and safety. Therefore, LifeSaver’s use of the bio-digital twin in a completely scientific laboratory setting allows for the study of the outcomes of this simulated pregnancy conditions.
The outcomes of LifeSaver would allow the data to be used in optimization of dosing of prescribed medications and in the development of new formulations to treat any illnesses or conditions during pregnancy. This gives choices to go a specific pharmacological route or abstain from potentially dangerous medicines.
What does the study hope to achieve?
LifeSaver data can be used to influence governmental regulations and practices regarding the use of the chemicals in current daily life. New regulations can be developed to restrict the use of these chemicals and their pollution into our environment, or govern the processes in which materials are made currently.
Societal awareness of the impact of chemicals and pharmacological products is an important outcome that occurs from the LifeSaver. Education is a direct result of learning about the effects of these areas on the human fetus, whereby updated information on what can happen during pregnancy and to a fetus can be distributed to those considering becoming pregnant and those who are already pregnant.
An informed mindset by persons and the medical community is important in maintaining a safer pregnancy that is untainted by toxic exposure to these contaminants and medications that would inevitably affect how a fetus systems develop. These toxins and chemicals have a direct impact on their life after birth. It also genetically affects their offspring, which in this study is theorised to impact at least one to two generations.
Why do we need the LifeSaver project?
The LIFESAVER study is incredibly unique and the first of its kind. It seeks to spread scientifically based (and not just guessed) awareness of the impact of chemical and pollutant exposure on the fetus. What’s more, it seeks to illustrate the lasting and detrimental effects of chemical and pollutant exposure to children and find ways to combat this.
With four million prenatal deaths occurring around the world each year, 450 per hour, it is essential that we pay attention to this issue to ensure optimal fetal health. The vision of this project is to ensure all pregnant women have proper living environments that do not pose harm to the fetus. In addition, there are scientifically justified regulations in place to control potentially harmful chemical and medicinal products, resulting in healthier quality lives for babies, overarching for generations.