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Organ-on-a-chip technologies

Three organ-on-a-chip systems will be developed to study the biological aspects of ex vivo living tissue structures by taking our existing sensor and lab-on-a-chip technology and integrating and analyzing 3D cellular assemblies. The premise of the organ-on-a-chip is the re-creation of the biological niche on chip to study cellular responses and tissue dysfunctions under physiologically relevant conditions.

(a) Human synovial organ mode

The aim of this project is to integrate a living tissue analogue that resembles the inner layer of a joint capsule into our complementary cell chip system. This WWTF-funded research project sets out to integrate a human synovial 3D-micromass onto a chip platform containing embedded electrical and optical microsensor arrays to analyze the interdependence of cellular reorganization and tissue function in an inflammatory microenvironment. Called “synovial organ-on-a-chip”, this lab-on-a-chip will be used to study the destructive inflammatory process of rheumatoid synovitis by investigating the dynamic structural changes of the organ model. Results are expected to yield substantial insight into rheumatoid arthritis pathogenesis and may open new ways to explore the mechanisms of inflammation-induced tissue fibrosis and organ failure.

(b) Placenta-on-a-chip

The aim of this project is the development of a human placenta model to monitor the uptake and accumulation of nanomaterials at the placenta cell barrier. Particular emphasis is placed on the physicochemical properties that play a role in the uptake of nanomaterials because it is still unknown which nanoparticle properties affect barrier function and if they pose a risk to the fetus during pregnancy. The integration of a functional placenta cell barrier in a microdevice would shed light on the behavior of nanodrugs, nanosensors and environmental nanoparticles at this important biological barrier. This research activity is funded by H2020-NMP-2015 to evaluate the safety of engineered nanomaterials and is part of an international collaborative project involving 10 partners entitled HINSET: High level integrated Sensor for NanoToxcity Screening. Overall the establishment of a human placental cell barrier also aligns with the European Union mandate to replace animal testing as well as a recent initiative of the United States National Institute of Health (NIH) to establish a “Human Placenta Project”.

(c) Midbrain-on-a-chip: Parkinson’s disease mode

One of the main limitations in neuroscience and in the modeling of neurodegenerative diseases is the lack of advanced experimental in vitro models that truly recapitulate the complexity of the human brain. Therefore, it is the aim of the here proposed research project to generate brain-like organoids that resemble the human midbrain and their integration into a multifunctional lab-on-a-chip device. We will focus on Parkinson’s disease, which is the second most common neurodegenerative disease. The objectives of the research is the development of a computer-controlled fully automated miniaturized 3D midbrain-on-a-chip system containing embedded optical and electrical microsensors to determine Parkinson’s disease specific phenotypes. The midbrains-on-a-chip project is funded by funded by EU Joint Programme for Neurodegenerative Research (JPND) and is conducted in collaboration with University of Luxembourg (lead) and four additional European partners.