A team of three researchers from LUMC has been awarded the €100k LUMC PhD fellowship to fund the first two years of a PhD student working on an innovative project called UNIONS (Unified organoid system for modelling kidney and heart interaction in chronic disease and its treatment). The team consists of Milena Bellin and Berend van Meer from the Department of Anatomy and Embryology, and Cathelijne van den Berg from the Department Internal Medicine-Nephrology at the LUMC.
Heart and kidney dysfunction often coexist and cause high morbidity and mortality. Interestingly, the heart and the kidneys reciprocally influence their functions and pathological changes in one organ promote injury on the other through cardiorenal mediators. The researchers recently used human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) to develop innovative in vitro models for cardiac microtissue (cMT) and kidney organoids (kO). Human systems to study the reciprocal interaction of the two organs are still missing but are highly needed, especially because interspecies differences limit the validity of animal models and the translation of their response to treatments. The overall aim of the UNIONS project is to combine and connect cMT and kO in a ‘cardio-renal unit’-on-chip and use it to identify, characterize and counteract the mediators of cellular damage leading to organ fibrosis in vitro.