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First blocks of the Flamingo project

Francesca Gervaso and Alessandro Polini from CNR-Nanotec have been working on multiple projects involving the creation of organ-on-a-chip systems. Recently they have published a few scientific articles relating to different objects Flamingo needs to fulfil to develop a working organ-on-a-chip. With this work, we successfully created a 3D microenvironment in which cells differentiate and mature, as well as grow and communicate. Science takes time, and these are the first blocks of the Flamingo project.

The Flamingo project brings together industry partners and researchers to create an organ-on-a-chip. This technology will, in the future, enable much easier treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. To get to the point where the organ-on-a-chips are being used, it is necessary to converge many different technologies to reach a common goal. The research group from CNR-Nanotec published a Leading Opinion article in Biomaterials and Biosystems. The authors analysed the current organ-on-a-chip scenario, highlighting how the convergence of different innovative technologies can provide the community with a broader range of possibilities in the field of disease modelling. The Flamingo project represents an excellent example of how the convergence of such technologies can bring us closer to performing clinical trials-on-chip, finding the proper treatment for each patient.

The Flamingo project aims to create an organ-on-a-chip in which multiple cell types would recreate a highly complex microenvironment. To achieve this, cells need to communicate with one another, mature, differentiate and grow in a 3D environment.

The researchers recently proposed in a scientific article published in the Scientific Reports the use of multi-compartmentalised microfluidic platforms that can support cell proliferation/differentiation accurately. The systems can physically isolate different cell types, preserving cell-cell communication.

Starting from natural polymers, the researchers developed a hydrogel system able to form at physiological conditions and replicate the 3D environment that the cells experience in our bodies (the extracellular matrix, ECM). Such systems will be essential for growing specific cell populations in a 3D fashion in Flamingo chips.

The researchers also recently showed how to use natural polymers to build a 3D microenvironment that supports cell differentiation and maturation. This is extremely important for addressing the needs of specific cells in the Flamingo project.

We can see how different technologies will interact in the final product – organ-on-a-chip. There are many challenges to overcome when preparing such a complex microenvironment for different types of cells. The following stages will involve putting all this together into creating a synovial tissue in an organ-on-a-chip.