A team of researchers at Queen Mary University of London has unveiled a groundbreaking organ-on-a-chip model focused on human synovium, the membranous tissue lining the joints. This breakthrough offers promising prospects for enhancing our comprehension of arthritis and potentially paving the way for novel treatments for this group of debilitating conditions. In the United Kingdom, more than 10 million individuals grapple with various forms of arthritis, which manifest with joint pain, stiffness, and swelling. Unfortunately, no cure currently exists for arthritis, and the quest for effective therapies is hampered by the absence of precise disease models.
The newly introduced synovium-on-a-chip model is a three-dimensional microfluidic device that incorporates human synovial cells and blood vessel cells. What sets this development apart is that the device is designed to mimic the mechanical forces experienced by the synovium during joint movement.
Significantly, this synovium-on-a-chip model displays the ability to emulate the behavior of natural human synovium. It effectively generates vital synovial fluid components and exhibits responsiveness to inflammatory cues. This promising achievement indicates that the platform possesses substantial potential for shedding light on the mechanisms underpinning arthritic diseases and for identifying and assessing innovative therapeutic approaches.
Of particular note is the fact that this model represents the world's first human, vascularized synovium-on-a-chip model with applied mechanical loading, successfully replicating several pivotal aspects of native synovium biology? Furthermore, this model leverages a commercially available platform (Emulate Inc.), rendering it easily accessible for widespread adoption without the need for specialized expertise in chip fabrication. The vascularized synovium-on-a-chip model can serve as a foundational tool for academic research, enabling the exploration of fundamental questions and the introduction of additional complexities, such as different cell and tissue types.
Currently, the research team is actively utilizing the synovium-on-a-chip model to delve into the disease mechanisms of arthritis. Additionally, their work encompasses the development of stratified and personalized organ-on-a-chip models customized specifically for human synovium and its associated tissues. This promising technology holds great potential for expediting progress in the realm of arthritis research and the tailored development of treatments.