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FLAMIN-GO’s 2nd review meeting in Porto: »The time has come to lego-build our joint on chip”

Porto, Portugal On the 21st and 22nd of February, a second review meeting took place for the FLAMIN-GO project, a European research initiative targeting a breakthrough in treating Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). This 36-month milestone meeting, hosted by the i3S Institute in Porto, Portugal, brought together project partners to share progress, tackle challenges, and set the course for future advancements.

FLAMIN-GO project started in 2021 with a focus on developing a personalised treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis. which affects millions worldwide, causing joint pain and potentially leading to severe disability. Despite existing treatments, many patients struggle with ineffective medications and unpleasant side effects.

The FLAMIN-GO project is at the forefront of changing this narrative by developing personalized synovia-on-chip technology designed to mimic the conditions of an arthritic joint. This allows researchers to test how different drugs work for individual patients. moving towards personalized medicine that can significantly improve treatment outcomes and reduce side effects.

Progress and Challenges: Insights from the FLAMIN-GO’s Porto meeting

Project coordinator Dr Annalisa Chiocchetti from University of Eastern Piedmont (UPO), Novara, Italy, encapsulated the team’s results and ambition: “The time has come to build our joint on chip! So, in this reporting period, we worked hard to assemble the full platform by performing computational studies and microfabrication and setting bioprinting procedures towards its generation.”

She mentioned that initial prototypes for the synovia-on-chip (SoC) were developed. Bioprinting succeeded for the vascular and synovial units, but there are challenges with cartilage tissue. Additionally, protocols for preparing and analysing samples for high-resolution 3D imaging of individual units and complete SoC using micro-CT have been established, except for bone and cartilage, which are experiencing minor delays.

This 36-month milestone meeting was held in Porto, Portugal, for the first time and was hosted by Dr Meriem Lamghari at the i3S Institute, a hub of scientific innovation and interdisciplinary research. Dr Lamghari’s work, particularly in understanding and treating musculoskeletal diseases, has contributed to the project’s success.

“We were very happy to host our partners in Porto. We had the opportunity to show facilities that allow us to do experiments and complex analyses. Among other instruments, we presented the bioprinting technology that we used in the project. The role of INEB in the project is to bioprint vascular structure in very small, microfluidic systems,” said Dr Lamghari.

Most of the talks at the meeting were presented by young PhD students. “They were really great. They had the opportunity to meet great scientists and learn how to communicate what they are doing,” said Dr Chiocchetti.

Monitors and an officer from the European Commission were also closely following the meeting and providing valuable comments. “We are starting the 3rd and last reporting period full of important suggestions by our monitors, and we are happy to fly to the end of our project,” said Dr Chiocchetti. 

Now we are at a point where we are trying to understand which direction to take to fully and successfully address our big purpose – to create a joint-on-a-chip for personalised treatment of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, she concluded.

Personalized Treatment Goals

Innovative synovia-on-chip (SoC) replicating arthritic joint conditions is at the heart of the FLAMIN-GO project. The chip is created using cells from a patient’s joint, forming a miniature version of their joint on a chip.  »It’s really innovative because we are mimicking the joint in all its complexity, which very few people are trying to do,” said Dr Liliane Fossati-Jimack from Queen Mary, University of London, one of the project’s partners.

The key to consistent results is 3D bioprinting, using advanced materials and techniques to ensure cell survival and function akin to the human body. This is vital for accurately simulating the arthritic joint environment, advancing personalized medicine. The chip enables drug efficacy testing for individual patients, aiming to enhance treatment outcomes and minimize side effects in personalized medicine.

As Dr Fossati-Jimack explained, every patient is unique, and 40 per cent may not respond to any standard treatment. As patients navigate through various treatments, their joint health and quality of life inevitably deteriorate, often resulting in disability and an inability to fully engage in life’s activities.

The goal of the project is to revolutionize this process by utilizing a piece of joint tissue to assess its response to different medications before starting the treatment. “I’m hoping that with all the different studies when a patient, we’ll be able in a relatively short period of time to tell the patient which treatment will be beneficial. And hopefully, with that, we can stop the disease at an early stage and maybe get them In remission,” added Dr Fossati-Jimack.

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, Fluidigm, Enginsoft and RegenHU. In total, 12 partners from 10 countries are involved in the project. The project was awarded funding of 6 million euros in the Horizon 2020 program.

For more information, please contact: Prof. Annalisa Chiochetti, UPO, Novara, Italy (