Thesis Heleen Middelkamp about microfluidic vessels-on-chips for vascular disease modelling

On Friday September 8th 2023 Heleen Middelkamp successfully defended her PhD thesis entitled ‘Microfluidic vessels-on-chips for vascular disease modelling’ at the University of Twente. She carried out her research within the Netherlands Organ-on-Chip Initiative (NOCI) under the supervision of Albert van den Berg and  Andries van der Meer from the University of Twente.

More than 30% of all deaths worldwide have a vascular cause, which mostly involves heart attack or stroke caused by arterial diseases such as atherosclerosis. The exact mechanisms of early development of atherosclerosis are still unknown and need to be investigated in order to find new strategies for prevention and treatment. Organs-on-Chips (OoCs) and specifically Blood Vessels-on-Chips (BVoCs) can assist in investigating vascular diseases, by recapitulating the human vasculature more accurately than other models such as animal models. In this thesis multiple vessel-on-chip models are presented and have been developed to investigate different types of vascular disease. These models vary from 3D BVoCs for early atherosclerosis modelling to blood-brain-barrier modelling.

As vascular diseases are still the main cause of death worldwide, modelling the vasculature is very important in understanding vascular mechanisms and diseases. BVoCs can help interconnect multiple different OoCs. Multiple BVoC models already exist and can be used to model different types of vasculature in disease and health. The models presented in this thesis are an addition to those models and can greatly benefit our understanding of vascular mechanisms. By using BVoCs it is possible to move towards a more complex, more personalized model and greatly improve patient-specific treatments and mechanistic disease understanding.

Heleen will continue her work in the Organ-on-Chip community at the University of Twente as the new research assistant for the NXTGEN HIGHTECH One-Stop-Shop project, coordinated by hDMT. Furthermore, she recently started as support coordinator for the European Organ-on-Chip Society (EUROoCS).

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