Cartilage on a Chip to Identify New Treatments for Osteoarthritis

Researchers
from the Polytechnic University of Milan and the University Hospital of Basel
have developed a microfluidic chip containing cartilage, which can be subjected
to mechanical stress. The procedure mimics the conditions of osteoarthritis and
could help in developing new treatments.

Osteoarthritis
is relatively common among people over 60, with 20% of women and 10% of men suffering
its effects at this age. However, perhaps surprisingly, there are no drugs available
that can halt or reverse the process, with palliative care or surgery
frequently being the only options available.

Experimental
models that accurately reflect the mechanical and physiological conditions contributing
to osteoarthritis are lacking. This may underlie the failure of researchers to
develop drugs that can have a real impact on the condition. At present, most
research into osteoarthritis is conducted using cartilage explants, which are
induced to produce an inflammatory response through exposure to pro-inflammatory
substances.

However,
this doesn’t accurately model the mechanical phenomena that occur in
osteoarthritis, where mechanical wear on the cartilage in joints leads to
long-term degeneration and inflammation. This new microfluidic chip produces
mechanical stress on cartilage cultivated within it to more accurately mimic
the process that occurs in osteoarthritis.

An
actuation layer within the chip allows for compression of the cartilage, and
this leads to inflammation, hypertrophy and degeneration, all of which are
observed in osteoarthritis. The researchers hope to use the chip to screen for
new drugs that can halt or even reverse this process, and which could make a
significant difference for patients with osteoarthritis. Future work will also
include modeling an entire joint on a chip.

See a video about the research below:

Study in Nature Biomedical
Engineering
: Hyperphysiological
compression of articular cartilage induces an osteoarthritic phenotype in a
cartilage-on-a-chip model

Via: Polytechnic
University of Milan