In the next two days, the city of Ravena will welcome researchers working on the project FLAMIN-GO. The international research group is on a quest to develop organ-on-a-chip technology to enable a personalised approach to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA). RA affects almost three million patients in the European Union. It is a condition that starts with inflammation of synovial joints and can lead to permanent damage to cartilage and bones. The current treatment is ineffective in more than one-third of patients.
Organ-on-a-chip involves recreating the physiological environments of specific tissues and organs. In the case of treating rheumatoid arthritis, the focus is on the synovial joint tissue. This approach enables researchers and drug developers to avoid animal testing and enables targeted treatment development. With the joint-on-a-chip, each patient can receive a precise, personalised treatment.
To recreate the synovial joints environment on a chip which could then be used to provide personalised treatment, researchers need to study each part separately and create independent parts of the chip. Organ-on-a-chip consists of many parts. In the case of treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, it needs to include the tissues that start the inflammation and the ones that are at the end affected by it. These are cartilage and bones. To create the technology FLAMIN-GO project will follow a LEGO-like approach. Each part will be created independently and then connected with the others to create the joint-on-a-chip. Chip production, sensors and cells are the main compartments of a working joint-on-a-chip.
At the first mid-term meeting, the researchers will discuss and present the advances in the production of chips, sensors and cells. The topics will cover the development of single-unit chips and steps in developing a specific substrate for synovial cell growth on the chip. Thursday afternoon talks will cover the development of the sensors. For the chip to work, it needs to sense the environment and react in the case of a non-suitable conditions for the cells. Friday morning will start with talks on cell biopsies, bioprinting and growth of the cells.
The FLAMIN-GO project aims to improve the treatment and lives of patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The selection of patients that will be recruited for the project is already on the way. The process of recruitment and ethical implications will be presented at the meeting.