Not only the lungs, but in some cases also the heart of a patient can be seriously damaged by COVID-19. The cause of this is still unclear. By exposing heart tissue on an ‘organ-on-chip’ to both the virus and the medication used, fast and personalized evaluation of the causes is possible, including possible remedies. The TechMed Centre and the MESA+ Institute of the University of Twente, in collaboration with Leiden University Medical Center and two companies, will start a new project for getting this knowledge available fast.
Organ-on-chip systems offer the opportunity of building a miniature version of an organ. Often based on stem cells, the mini organ will function like it does in the body. For this, the chip has fluidic channels and reservoirs. It is possible to introduce other substances like medication and study the effect. For the human heart, already model systems are available based on human pluripotent stem cells. According to the research team, these ‘miniature hearts’ can be used to evaluate the effect of COVID-19 treatment. And for studying the effect of the virus on the heart: what causes cardiac damage?
Fast and personalized
The main advantage of this approach is that results can be made available fast. Using cells and blood of a specific patient, the individual effects can be studied, possibly leading to highly personalized treatment. This new studies of COVID-19 will rely on a basic setup that is already available. Another important advantage of organ-on-chip systems is that animal studies are needed less often.
In the ‘MONACO-sprint, modeling and attacking COVID-19 with Organs-on-Chips’ project, researchers of the Technical Medical Centre (TechMed) and the MESA+ Institute collaborate within the new ‘Organ-on-Chip Center Twente’ and the Applied Stem Cell Technologies group. Other partners in this project: the Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC), the UT spinoff River Biomedics and the Leiden-based company NCardia. The project is funded by the Health~Holland programme.