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BLOOD CELLS ON A MICROCHIP

Researchers are studying how nanoparticles behave in blood vessels

Designing nanomedicine to combat diseases is a hot area of research, but little is known in the context of atherosclerotic disease. Scientists have now engineered a microchip coated with blood vessel cells to learn more about the conditions under which nanoparticles accumulate in the plaque-filled arteries of patients with atherosclerosis, the underlying cause of myocardial infarction and stroke.

In the research, microchips were coated with a thin layer of endothelial cells, which make up the interior surface of blood vessels. In healthy blood vessels, endothelial cells keep foreign objects out of the bloodstream. But at sites prone to atherosclerosis, the endothelial barrier breaks down, allowing things to move in and out of arteries that shouldn’t.
In a new study, nanoparticles were able to cross the endothelial cell layer on the microchip under conditions that mimic the permeable endothelium of a microvessel in atherosclerosis. The results on the microfluidic device correlated well with nanoparticle accumulation in the arteries of an animal model with atherosclerosis, demonstrating the device’s capability to help screen nanoparticles and optimize their design.

“It’s a simple model — a microchip, not a cell culture dish — which means that a simple endothelialized microchip with microelectrodes can show some important predictions of what’s happening in a large animal model,” said YongTae (Tony) Kim, an assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering.

The research was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It represents a multidisciplinary effort of researchers who are collaborating within the Program of Excellence in Nanotechnology funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health. The team included researchers at the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam, Kyushu Institute of Technology in Japan, the Boston University School of Medicine, and Harvard Medical School.

YongTae (Tony) Kim

YongTae (Tony) Kim is an assistant professor in bioengineering in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. He studies biomimetic microsystems for probing nanoparticle behaviors.

illustration of blood cells moving through an artery

Scientists engineered a microchip coated with blood vessel cells to learn more about the conditions under which nanoparticles accumulate in the plaque-filled arteries of patients with atherosclerosis.

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