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Put your heart on this chip and your cancer treatment becomes ‘healthier’

11 June 2018

Chemotherapy and immunotherapy place an enormous strain on the heart. In fact, they can cause irreparable damage. So what if your doctor could use a simple test to check which treatment would place the least strain on your heart? Thomas Pauwelyn, researcher at imec, has worked with cardiologist Stefan Janssens on a chip that can be used for just such a test.

Imagine a future in which we didn’t need to test drugs on animals any more. And imagine that the doctor could check to see which form of medication was best for your body. The secret is a chip with thousands of electrodes and perhaps even built-in mini-microscopes.

So, imagine that you donate some skin cells or blood – and these can be reprogrammed to become heart cells, for instance. And then, thanks to cleverly designed structures, materials and molecules on the chip, these cells grow like they would in a real heart, complete with beating movements and contraction waves that propagate. Various “wells” (as in a cell culture plate) are applied on top of the chip and various types of medication are placed automatically in the wells (and hence on your heart cells). The electrodes and microscopes take readings of the condition of the cells and then, after all of the data has been processed, a decision can be taken about which medicine your heart cells respond best to.

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