‘Heart-on-a-chip’ for safer cancer treatment

Feb. 20, 2024
Cedars-Sinai stem cell researchers pioneer new technology to test chemotherapies and other cancer drugs for heart toxicity.

Chemotherapy can be toxic to heart cells. To help protect the hearts of cancer patients, Cedars-Sinai investigators have created a three-dimensional “heart-on-a-chip” to evaluate drug safety.

In a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Lab on a Chip, they show that the heart-on-a-chip, created using stem cells, accurately predicts the effects of drugs on human heart cells.

The investigators worked with induced pluripotent stem cells, which are blood cells that have been reprogrammed into stem cells and can be turned into any cell type in the body. They used the stem cells to create two types of heart cells, but instead of placing them all together in an unstructured cell culture dish, as is usually done in heart toxicity testing, the investigators introduced the cells into specialized chips.

The 3D chips feature two channels that are arranged to cross each other, keeping each cell type separate but allowing them to interact. The chips also allow for movement and the introduction of fluids.

To demonstrate the proficiency of heart-on-a-chip as a drug-testing platform, the research team, including lead author and postdoctoral fellow Maedeh Mozneb, PhD, subjected the heart chip to a chemotherapy drug called a VEGFR/PDGFR-inhibiting tyrosine kinase inhibitor, which is known to have adverse effects on heart muscle and blood vessel cells. Damage was observed to both cell types in the heart chips.

If future studies continue to show good results, heart-on-a-chip technology could significantly reduce drug development costs and improve the rate at which new therapies become available.

Cedars-Sinai release

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