Advancing the Understanding and Treatment of Heart Diseases

About

EMAPS-Cardio (ElectroMechanoActive Polymer-based Scaffolds for Heart-on-Chip) is an international research project funded under the EU’s Horizon 2020 framework programme. The project aims to advance the understanding and treatment of heart diseases.

The Challenge

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the number one cause of deaths globally and account for 45 % of deaths in Europe. Overall, heart diseases are estimated to cost the EU economy € 210 billion a year. Due to the high risks associated with discovering pharmaceuticals’ efficacy only in the late stages of clinical trials, the development of effective cardiovascular drugs has steadily declined over the past decades.

Our Vision & Mission

EMAPS-Cardio is a response to the demand for more accurate in vitro models. Our vision is to increase the efficiency of drug development and safety screening. EMAPS-Cardio aims to develop models that can predict the success of a drug at a very early stage of drug development – prior to animal testing and clinical trials. This can significantly reduce the overall need for animal testing, failed clinical trials and drug withdrawals, and increase the rate of drug development and new drugs that are brought to market. Devices based on EMAPS can be used to generate organotypic in vitro models that require advanced stimulation, i.e., mechanical, electrical and biochemical, to achieve adult cell maturity. EMAPS-Cardio strives to develop a versatile platform that can be used to grow a variety of tissues, e.g., heart, lung, skin, muscle, etc.

As a first step towards this goal, the EMAPS-Cardio research will focus on cardiac models. With the EMAPS-based heart-on-chip device, we seek to advance the current technological state-of-the-art by developing clinically relevant, accurate cardiac models for early-stage drug screening that facilitate the faster development of highly efficient cardiovascular drugs and limit the growing socioeconomic burden of cardiovascular diseases.

The Objectives

The main objective of EMAPS-Cardio is to provide in vitro cardiac models that are sufficiently accurate to detect drug potency in both healthy and diseased tissues.

More specifically, EMAPS-Cardio has the following objectives:

  1. Developing two devices that can be used for growing any healthy or diseased tissues that require electrical and mechanical stimulation, e.g., heart, lung, skin, muscle, bladder, etc. and validating them for cardiac models
  2. Delivering accurate healthy and diseased cardiac models that can be further used for understanding the disease progression, testing the impacts of various stimuli (nutrients, nanomaterials, mechanical stress, etc.) on onset and development of the cardiac diseases, testing the efficacy of the drugs, and their cardiotoxicity
  3. Developing microenvironment that provides all needed stimuli during the differentiation of hiPSC and maturation of tissues, i.e., electroactive, mechanoactive, bioactive scaffolds
  4. Developing hiPSC differentiation protocols optimized to produce matured myocardium (resting membrane potential of -80 mV, upstroke velocity of 60 beats per minute)
  5. Developing sensors for simultaneous and continuous sensing of cardiac health markers (contractility strength and frequency characterization)
  6. Developing advanced algorithms for detection of the drug efficacy on diseased in vitro myocardium to minimize false-negatives
  7. Commercializing mechanoactive scaffolds for 3D cell culture, trans-well inserts for heart-on-chip, miniaturized bioreactor for electromechanoactive cell cultures, and improved maturation quality hiPSC-CMs

For a quick overview about the EMAPS-Cardio project, please download the fact sheet here: