Releasing Covid-19 on nuggets of heart

Wednesday, 1 July

In U-Today, an independent journalistic medium at the University of Twente (UT), hDMT PI Andries van der Meer talks about plans to use Organ-on-Chips for covid-19 research, together with researchers from Leiden, among others. Their connections within the hDMT consortium inspired them to work together on this new challenge.

Does the old malaria drug hydroxychloroquine work against Covid-19, or not? To try it directly on people, it's pretty risky. Van der Meer together with partners in Leiden and Nijmegen, wants to use Organ-on-Chips to quickly test drugs and gain insight into the virus, without having to involve a patient. He and Robert Passier of the Applied Stem Cell Technology department think this is a safe way to quickly acquire the necessary knowledge about the coronavirus.

That is very useful if you want to investigate how that heart behaves under certain circumstances. For example, if it is exposed to hydroxychloroquine - notorious for side effects on the heart. That is why Van der Meer and his colleagues Albert van den Berg and Berend van Meer from the MESA+ Institute met virtually to discuss how they can contribute to solutions in this coronary crisis.

"We are part of a national Organ-on-Chip consortium, hDMT," says van der Meer. Here in Twente, we work on the heart, but in Leiden, our colleagues at Professor Pieter Hiemstra's Pulmonary Diseases Department are working on microscopic pulmonary alveoli with the same approach. We also have many collaborative partners in the pharmaceutical industry who use our models to test drugs.

"We were all sitting at home, but everyone felt we had to do something with our models. That is when we gave ourselves the assignment: if we look at what we have on the shelf right now, where do we see added value for questions surrounding the corona crisis over the next six months?"

And so a plan was drawn up for research projects in the short and longer term. In Leiden, the researchers want to find out exactly what happens when the coronavirus infects the lungs. "If we release such a virus in a Long-on-Chip, do we see that it attaches itself, how does it get in and which local cell types are important," says Van der Meer. "If we use a model without a blood vessel, will the virus still enter? Or does it really need those vascular cells? That is a question about which we can gather a lot of information in the coming months".

Source: U-Today (in Dutch) Covid-19 loslaten op klompjes hart.
Photocredits: Gijs van Ouwerkerk

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