Heart-on-Chip Module part of Pre-University Online Course TUDelft

Saturday, 2 May

From October 2019 to January 2020, secondary school students could take part in a Pre-University Online Course from the Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands. One of the three modules dealt with Heart-on-Chip, researching living cells and tissues with the help of a chip: a new technology to learn more about the development of diseases and to reduce the use of laboratory animals.

Cinzia Silvestri of BI/OND helped with the course ideation and content preparation. The Heart-on-Chip module was supervised by ir. Egbert Bol, Head Electrical Engineering Education of the TUDelft. "The students worked enthusiastically on the assignments of the heart on a chip course," Silvestri says. "A majority of the participants was really interested in Organ-on-Chip technology and they invested a lot of time and effort in their final assignment: designing their own Organ-on-Chip. Their design could be presented via video, essay or poster. Some of them were extremely curious and did their own research outside the programme."

The Heart-on-Chip module included:

  1. A video introduction by Cinzia Silvestri. The goal is that the Heart-on-Chip behaves the same as a real heart and can pass medical tests.
  2. A section focused on Biology, with a short introduction on the heart functions and ECG. The properties of a heart - such as keeping the mechanical activities of the heart and the circulatory system working - must also be integrated in a chip.
  3. A section focused on the Chemistry behind building a Heart-on-Chip, such as the chemical properties of polymers, like hydrophobic and hydrophilic, which are essential for the construction of the microchip and mimicking the heart.
  4. A section focused on the Engineering of the chip: microfabrication and electrodes integration.
  5. Final assignment: Design an Organ-on-Chip!
  6. Conclusion: Societal impact of the Organ-on-Chip with the white paper of hDMT.

At the end of each section, students had to perform various assignments. The whole module required 30 hours of self-study.

In the module, the students also had the options to ask questions to hDMT. They thought about:

  • Is it possible to re-use these chips so that you can use cells of different people for personalised results?
  • If this isn't possible, how expensive will it be to mass-produce the chips?
  • When can we expect vital results of the heart on a chip?
  • Is it possible to quantify animal reduction?
  • How long do we have to wait for the approval of Organ-on-Chip technology?

Due to the corona pandemic, the pre-university program is not yet completely finished. But from the 140 students that started with the online course, 77 students finished the whole Heart-on-Chip module. And 89 students finished the online course (the criteria were changed during the course, the students had to complete 2 out of the 3 modules.)

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