Published on 22 Jun 2021

NTU researchers developed a microfluidic human arterial wall-on-a-chip for study of atherosclerosis

An interdisciplinary team of NTU researchers from School of MAE, MSE, LKCMedicine, and Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) has developed a novel human arterial wall-on-a-chip to study atherosclerosis – a disease manifests in the artery that is mainly responsible for the narrowing of blood vessels and the development of cardiovascular diseases. Conventionally, scientists have used 2D tissue cultures and animal models to study atherosclerosis. However they have limited capabilities in clinical applications due to the lack of complex cellular microenvironment and inter-species differences, respectively.

Organ-on-a-chip is a burgeoning technology that combines advances in microfluidics and MEMs engineering to create physiologically relevant cellular microsystems for study of organ functions and human diseases. In this work, Su and colleagues developed the first-in-kind arterial wall-on-a-chip that mimics the structural interfaces and biology of human arterial wall. The microfabricated chip is constructed by 3D co-culture of endothelial cells and smooth muscle cells (two major cell types present in the arterial wall) in precisely patterned hydrogels. Upon stimulation with atherogenic factors (cytokines, low-density lipoproteins), early atherosclerotic vascular events including endothelial inflammation and SMC migration were recapitulated on the chip. Furthermore, metformin (a common medication for diabetes) and vitamin D were shown to exert atheroprotective effects by mitigating cytokine-induced vascular dysfunction. It is envisioned that the developed model can be further applied to evaluate drug efficacy in vascular diseases and for personalized medicine.

The study has recently been published in Lab on a Chip and is featured as back cover:

A novel human arterial wall-on-a-chip to study endothelial inflammation and vascular smooth muscle cell migration in early atherosclerosis