Organ-on-e-chip tech circumvents challenge of reading the heart's electrical patterns

By Maggie Lynch

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/bluebay2014)
(Image: Getty/bluebay2014)

Related tags Organoid iPSC Heart

Researchers develop organ-on-an-electronic-chip platform to explore the electrophysiology of iPSC-derived cardiomyocytes and understand how the heart communicates.

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore develop an organ-on-an-electronic-chip platform to measure the electrophysiology of heart cells in 3D.

The organ-on-an-electronic-chip platform or ‘organ-on-e-chip’ uses bioelectrical sensors coiled over heart spheroid tissues to measure the electrophysiology of the heart cells in three dimensions. According to the researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), this platform enables researchers to study how cells communicate in multicellular systems such as the heart.

The researchers believe that the platform could be used to determine the connection between the heart’s electrical signals and disease, such as arrhythmias, and investigate processes in cultured cells, such as tissue development and cell maturation.

Tzahi Cohen-Karni, associate professor of biomedical engineering and materials science and engineering at CMU, stated, “We are trying to circumvent the challenge of reading the heart’s electrical patterns in 3D by developing a way to shrink-wrap sensors around heart cells and extracting electrophysiological information from this tissue.”

According to the CMU researchers, the organ-on-e-chip platform works like “a microscale slap bracelet”​ – a novelty from the late 1990s that and the platform are both rigid, but quickly coil up when tension is released.

(Image credit: Carnegie Mellon University)
(Image credit: Carnegie Mellon University)

The organ-on-e-chip starts out rigid and then researchers pin an array of sensors made of either metallic electrodes or graphene sensors to the chip’s surface, before etching off the layer of germanium. Once the layer of germanium is removed, the biosensor array is released from its hold and coils away from the surface.

The organ-on-e-chip platform was tested on cardiac spheroids, elongated organoids made of heart cells that are about the width of 2-3 human hairs. When the platform coiled over the spheroid it enabled researchers to collect electrical signal readings.

"Essentially, we have created 3D self-rolling biosensor arrays for exploring the electrophysiology of induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes,"​ lead author of the study and biomedical engineering PhD student Anna Kalmykov stated.

Cohen-Karni added, “Our organs are 3D in nature. For many years, electrophysiology was done using just cells cultured on a 2D tissue culture dish. But now, these amazing electrophysiology techniques can be applied to 3D structures.”

Researchers stated that they will soon provide the needed designs to create the platform, after which they will consult with other researchers interested in using the technology for studies.

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