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Singapore researchers develop novel 3D model to study vascular diseases

Press releases may be edited for formatting or style | September 07, 2021 Cardiology

Senior author of the study, Asst Prof Hou, also a faculty member in NTU’s Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, said: “Our new ‘wall-on-a-chip’ model could help clinicians better understand the fundamental biology and conditions of vascular dysfunction when atherosclerosis starts, and the different processes involved in its progression, so that new strategies for early intervention of atherosclerosis can be developed.”

As part of the study, the team tested two compounds, Vitamin D and metformin (a common diabetes medication) and showed that they can help to prevent smooth muscle cell migration and immune cell adherence, the two key processes involved in atherosclerosis.

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In the future, new drug compounds and molecules can also be tested using the arterial wall-on-a-chip to assess their effectiveness in preventing the effects of oxidative stress, or perhaps to reverse migration of the smooth muscle cells.

Assoc Prof Dalan said that out of all the deaths caused by cardiovascular diseases, 58 per cent had occurred in Asia[3]: “Despite significant advances in treatment, the mortality and morbidity associated with atherosclerosis remain high. There is an unmet need to understand the disease mechanisms and processes of atherosclerosis in a typical patient who is suffering from multiple diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. “The development of this “arterial wall-on-a-chip” enables us to study the process of atherosclerosis under various conditions as well as the possible impact of therapeutics and drug combinations, which will have wide applications.”

Professor Derek John Hausenloy, Cardiovascular & Metabolic Disorders Programme, Duke-NUS Medical School and the Director of the National Heart Research Institute Singapore, gave an independent comment on the research findings: “Cardiovascular diseases are the leading causes of death and disability in Singapore and worldwide. These include cerebrovascular, coronary arterial and peripheral arterial disease, the major cause of which is atherosclerosis. The ability to model atherosclerosis using this novel human arterial wall-on-a-chip will enable the discovery and validation of novel treatment targets for preventing atheroma (plaque) formation and improving health outcome in patients with these conditions.”

Finding the optimal hydrogel (or extracellular matrix) components was key in setting up this 3D co-culture model which contains multiple types of cells, so that both the vascular smooth muscle cells and endothelial cells are retained in a “healthy” state that accurately represents the human arterial wall.

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