Office for People With Developmental Disabilities

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Placental Modulation Laboratory


Carolyn M. Salafia, MD, MS, Head

In the newest of the laboratories at IBR, the Placental Modulation Laboratory has as its goal the development of novel procedures and innovative techniques to identify and ameliorate the causes of intellectual and developmental disabilities, by developing methods to quantitate how the placenta modulates fetal wellbeing throughout pregnancy and ultimately neurodevelopmental outcome.

The lab’s principal focus is the assessment and precise measurement of the patterning of the placental vascular tree as a biomarker associated with autism/autism spectrum disorder risk.

The lab is currently establishing standards by testing human placentas from a variety of birth cohorts to identify the ranges within which placental morphology affects placental function. Once that link is made, the next link—to effects on fetal and long-term health—is the next step. The lab is equipped with its own histology facility that supports a wide range of tissue preparations. Dr. Salafia’s focus is on gross and microscopic placental evaluations using optical and digital image analysis. The laboratory uses robotic automated equipment as well as traditional manual laboratory techniques.

The lab team is made up of a multidisciplinary research team of epidemiologists, laboratory technicians, placental physiologists, computational scientists, mathematicians and physicists.

The long-term goal of this laboratory is to understand the role of the placenta in fetal neurodevelopment and to use that knowledge to clarify causes of disabilities, and to develop measures that can identify the at-risk infant at birth, so that interventions can be initiated earlier than is currently possible, to optimize each child’s outcome.