Successful pregnancy necessitates that the human uterus is maintained in a relaxed, quiescent state for the majority pregnancy, before ultimately transforming to a contractile phenotype capable of powerful, coordinated contractions to facilitate parturition. The exact mechanisms that regulate this transition are yet to be fully understood, and as such, we still do not understand the molecular mechanisms that trigger the onset of human labor. This is in large part due to the ethical considerations associated with human pregnancy, which, outside of clinical trials, primarily limits human studies to in vitro investigations on cell lines and biopsied tissues. Researchers have therefore devised numerous model systems for investigating pregnant human uterine smooth muscle, which have played vital roles in elucidating the fundamental biology and key regulatory pathways that underpin the transition from quiescence to contractility. This chapter describes in detail, those methods and model systems used to study pregnant human uterine smooth muscle, and explores the challenges associated with these model systems.
Part of the book: Muscle Cell and Tissue