Fresh hDMT membership offers opportunities for organ-on-a-chip research at UMC Utrecht
On June 1st, 2023 UMC Utrecht became a partner of the Institute for Human Organ and Disease Model Technologies (hDMT). hDMT focuses on developing and qualifying cell culture models that mimic human tissue based on organ-on-chip technology, and on facilitating the application of these techniques. Fifteen Dutch partner organisations, including universities and hospitals, are now working together in the hDMT consortium.
Better prediction models
Although animal experiments are still needed to study complex interactions between different organ systems, there is growing evidence that animal models do not always provide the best predictions. The advantage of organ-on-chip technology is that it has a better – or at least equal – predictive value for humans and can help reduce the use of laboratory animals.
Mimicking functional organs and tissues
Organ-on-chip technology is considered a potential game-changer for many applications. These are chips containing live organs or tissues – such as bone, kidney, muscle and skin – grown in controlled environments. The chips are easily manipulated using f.i. microfluidics and mimic the environment of living cells in the human body, causing the cells and tissues to react to stimuli (like toxic substances or medication) in a similar way as they would in reality. This is only achievable to a limited extent with existing laboratory techniques. The chips are capable of mimicking vascular systems, muscle contractions and metabolic processes, and by bringing together multiple organs in one chip, the physiology of the human body can be mimicked.
The tissues can come from healthy people or from people who are suffering from a certain disease, making it possible to study organ function and the mechanisms underlying diseases, including hereditary illnesses. The technology also facilitates real-time monitoring of the toxic effects of medications and makes it easier to discover new treatments. By bringing together multiple organs in one chip, the physiology of the human body can be mimicked
Collaborations around organ-on-a-chip models
In recent years, some UMC Utrecht researchers were already indirectly involved in hDMT through collaborations with colleagues at UU who had already joined the consortium. With this partnership, researchers working on organ-on-chip technology will have the opportunity to introduce themselves and their research or technology to the hDMT consortium. This will allow them to partner with other researchers, for instance, or submit joint grant applications.
The consortium has a number of thematic groups like brain-on-chip, cancer-on-chip, kidney-on-chip, bone-on-chip and more. In addition, the consortium operates at both the national and international level to promote organ-on-chip technology and lobby for grant opportunities. Jeffrey Beekman (professor Disease Modeling) and Zsolt Sebestyén (Associate professor Tumor Immunology) are the UMC Utrecht representatives in the hDMT Consortium Assembly.
Regenerative Medicine in Utrecht
The hDMT membership offers opportunities and possibilities for cooperation on these new technologies, inside and outside of the UMC. Researcher Bas van Balkom from the Regenerative Medicine Center Utrecht: “For me, and I believe for many colleagues at UMC Utrecht, hDMT offers a fantastic network for collaborating on models to study human (patho)physiology in the lab. The combination of broad knowledge and expertise, along with the open, stimulating, and collaborative attitude of hDMT members, is inspiring and offers tremendous opportunities to expand and accelerate research at UMC Utrecht.”