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Immune-system-on-a-chip could speed up future vaccine development

Date: 16.3.2022 

The immune system is incredibly complex, but a new breakthrough could help scientists unravel more of its secrets. Researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute have created a more accurate model of the human immune system in a microfluidic chip, providing a better platform to study how immune cells respond to vaccines and pathogens.

Kredit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University.In recent years, scientists have developed a way to model organs and other body tissues in microfluidic chips, which provide a much closer comparison. These “organs-on-chips” have so far included hearts, lungs, intestines, kidneys, spleens, corneas, teeth and placentas, and now the Wyss researchers have added the immune system to the list.

The researchers cultured human B and T cells inside a microfluidic device, which is designed to mimic the physical conditions these immune cells would encounter when they reach an organ.

Next, the researchers investigated how this immune-system-on-a-chip would respond to vaccination, to check if it was a close approximation of what happens in living humans. The team added dendritic cells, which help produce antigens by presenting fragments of pathogens to the lymph nodes.

The team vaccinated these microfluidic systems against the H5N1 flu strain, and sure enough the vaccinated LF chips produced far more plasma cells and flu antibodies than those grown in the usual flat cell cultures. Similar results were seen when the team repeated the experiment with commercially available flu vaccines. The levels of several cytokines were found to be similar to those in humans who received the vaccine.

This indicates that these microfluidic LF chips are a close match to the real thing, meaning they could be a much better analog for future research into the immune system and drug development.





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