Atrial Fibrillation (AF) on a Chip

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common progressive form of cardiac arrhythmia in the Western world. In the Netherlands alone, 344.000 patients suffer from AF and annually 45.000 new patients are diagnosed with this arrhythmia. Importantly, AF is associated with serious complications, such as stroke and heart failure, and increased mortality. Also, AF patients experience poor health-related quality of life (HRQoL), related to emotional functioning, physical functioning, exercise tolerance, symptom severity, ability to work, cognitive functioning and due to treatment burden (11-13). Unfortunately, AF treatment is symptomatic and not effective to prevent disease progression in up to 85% of the patients.

In this 3S project you will focus on (further) developing of an AF-on-chip, which is a microfluidic chip in which cardiomyocytes are cultured. This device needs to be developed such that it creates an environment for the cardiomyocytes in which the can mature to a heart cell, representative of a cell in the human body. If successful cardiomyocytes will start beating after a number of days in culture. Once this is established it is possible to add different compounds, such as pesticides, drugs, etc. to see how this effects the beating rhythm as well as the precise shape of the pattern. This enables to study the effect these compounds have on the heart cell, and thus the heart itself. This is to replace the animal testing that is done now for toxicity testing.

Within this project you will be involved in different aspects of the AF-on-a-chip. It encompasses the design of the chamber, materials, coatings, media, etc, but also the integration of electrodes and an optical microscope for acquiring data on the heartbeat from the cells. At the end of the project you have constructed a complete prototype in which heart cells can be cultured, and that allows the study of the effects of different compounds.

This project contributes to the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):