On April 17th and 18th partners of the European research project FLAMIN-GO met in Istanbul, Turkey at the Third Interim meeting of the project that is now more than halfway through. During the 2 days meeting, the partners had the opportunity to present project goals achieved and activities carried out, and to address challenges and set future goals.
The meeting was attended by 25 representatives of the project partners, who presented their research activities, achievements and bottlenecks, followed by an open discussion. The event represented an important step in the progress of the FLAMIN-GO project, whose aim is to develop “tailored” treatment for each individual patient suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis (AR).
After an opening greeting by the local representative Nasser Ghassembaglou and opening address by the project’s coordinator Annalisa Chiocchetti from University of Eastern Piedmont (UPO), partners presented the implementation status of technical work packages. They offered an update on the implementation of synovial unit, Inflamed blood vessel unit, Osteochondral unit, Lab-on-Chip and sensors, Assembly of an autologous RA synovia-on-chip, clinical validation and contrasting of microtissue in chips.
The Flamingo researchers have so far managed to bio-print the synovial and vascular units. But now their next challenge is to print the vascular unit from the cells of real patients. In parallel, lab-on-chip, a small device dedicated to follow specific markers for inflammatory disease has been under development. The workpackage lead, prof. Laura Boschis from Trustech s.r.l, Italy, said, that the lab-on-chip device for immunodiagnostics will be used not only in human diagnostics, but also in veterinary, agriculture and food.
Going into detail about the planning of upcoming activities, project partners also addressed the status of transversal work packages – Management and Ethics, Communication and Dissemination and Exploitation. The meeting concluded with the training course/workshop on the importance of sensors in organ-on-chip platforms.
Overall, the Third midterm meeting in Istanbul was a success, stressed project’s coordinator, prof. Annalisa Chiocchetti: »The meeting was quite complicated, but all the partners have been very cooperative and proactive, leaving the meeting full of new ideas to tackle the challenges they face.«
Main technical goal: organ-on-chip
The main technical goal of the project is to develop an organ-on-chip, a very small cell culture unit, that could be used to test whether and how a patient will respond to a specific drug, before the drug is actually given to him. To put it simply, organ-on-chip would enable to conduct personalized clinical trials on chips instead of patients’ bodies. This way serious side effects of some drugs could be avoided and the treatment speeded up, thus improving patients’ quality of life.
This will also have a major impact on the socio-economic aspect of the disease, since patients will feel better from early on and will be able to continue with their everyday activities and work, rather than being dependent on social security, added prof. Constantino Pitzalis, Head of Centre for Experimental Medicine and Rheumatology, Queen Mary University of London.
To build an organ-on-chip researchers need to first identify the cells that they want to culture and hydrogel to grow the cell in. For the chip to be personalized, they need to take the patient’s own cells and prepare them in a way that recapitulates key features in the patient’s joints, including synovial fluid, blood vessel and cartilage bone.
The project will also use microsensor to better understand processes in the organ-on-chip cell culture. Microsensors will allow researchers to understand cells’ behaviour – the level of nutrients, oxygen, etc. – and to determine whether the cells are producing what they actually expect from them.
»If we succeed in building a platform that will predict which therapy is best for an individual patient, I would like to make it available to everyone,« said Annalisa Chiocchetti. One step towards this goal is the creation of the start-up AI-TWIN, which professor Chiocchietti hopes will speed up the transfer of innovation to patients.
Rheumatoid Arthritis – autoimmune and inflammatory disease
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a widespread chronic autoimmune inflammatory disease that affects more than 400,000 people in Italy alone (some 2,900,000 patients in the EU). Itis characterized by chronic inflammation of the synovia, which is the membrane enabling the joint to function properly. This leads to pain and joint stiffness that, if not treated, can affect the patient’s quality of life, with anatomical damage and irreversible disability. There is also no definitive cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis. Remission of symptoms is more likely when treatment begins early with disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARD).
About FLAMIN-GO project
Led by the University of Eastern Piedmont, several public and private organizations are involved in the FLAMIN-GO project, including the Institute of Nanotechnology of the National Research Council (CnrNanotec) in Lecce, Queen Mary University of London, the Max Planck Institute, and the AO Foundation of Switzerland, and high-tech companies Trustech, Standard Bio Tools, Enginsoft and RegenHU. In total, 12 partners from 10 countries are involved in the project.
The project was awarded funding of 6 million euro in the Horizon 2020 program.
Learn more about the project at: https://flamingo-joc.eu/