Background Placental dysfunction is related to many pregnancy complications, but collecting placental specimens for investigation in large scale epidemiologic studies is often infeasible. Standard procedures involving immediate collection after birth and snap freezing are often cost prohibitive. We aimed to collect pilot data regarding the feasibility and precision of a simpler approach, the collection of tissue samples following 24 hours of refrigeration of whole placentae at 4C, as compared to the “gold standard” of snap freezing excised tissue within 40 minutes of delivery for the assessment of inflammatory cytokines. Methods Placentae were collected from 12 women after delivering live-born singleton babies via uncomplicated vaginal delivery. Two placentae were utilized to establish laboratory tissue processing and assay protocols. The other 10 placentae were utilized in a comparison of three tissue collection conditions. Specifically, key inflammatory cytokines were measured in 3 sections, representing three collection conditions. Sections 1 (full thickness) and 2 (excised prior to freezing) were obtained within 40 minutes of delivery and snap frozen in liquid nitrogen, and section 3 (full thickness) was obtained after refrigerating the placenta at 4C for 24 hours. Results IL-6, IL-10, and IL-8 all had comparable concentrations and variability overall in all three section types. Levels of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) were too low among samples to reliably measure using immunoassay.
Conclusions Refrigeration of placentae prior to processing does not appear to compromise detection of these cytokines for purposes of large scale studies. These findings provide a framework and preliminary data for the study of inflammatory cytokines within the placenta in large scale and/or resource-limited settings.