European Commission Horizon 2020 FET Open

Multi-million euro grant for the development of in vitro kidney models by MERLN

In the coming years, scientists from Maastricht University will focus on the development of bioprinted models of human kidney tissue. These models will be combined with advanced organ-on-a-chip platforms. This combination of technologies will allow microphysiological models to be built to do research into chronic and acute kidney failure. The researchers have received a €3 million grant from the European Commission Horizon 2020 FET Open – Novel ideas for radically new technologies programme (H2020-FETOPEN-2020). The intention is that these techniques can be relevant for future research into other types of diseases and treatment innovations.

Kidney failure
Worldwide, at least 850 million people suffer from chronic kidney disease, a condition which can be associated with additional health issues such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Acute kidney injury, sometimes caused by virus infections or medication, can also trigger rapid progression of kidney disease. Research into chronic and acute renal failure is difficult as current models based on cultured kidney cells have low biological relevance and poorly mimic kidney microphysiology. The Maastricht University research team will therefore focus on the development of bioprinted models of human kidney tissue. The scientists will combine two technologies to develop the models: bioprinting and organ-on-a-chip. Due to the use of modern stem cell techniques, the researchers expect to be able to generate more reliable and relevant in vitro models. They can then use these bioprinted models to study innovative treatment options.

European cooperation
The research project is a collaboration between the Institute for Technology-Inspired Regenerative Medicine (MERLN) at Maastricht University, the University of Nantes in France and two industry partners: the German biotechnology company TissUse and the Swedish company Fluicell. ‘Creating bioprinted kidney in vitro models has seen tremendous progress over the past five years,’ says Carlos Mota of MERLN. ‘Although these models gradually demonstrate bioprinting’s potential, further combination of techniques is necessary to create reliable and relevant in vitro platforms to study renal disease. In order to achieve this project’s goals, we gathered a unique team of partners with complementary expertise from both academia and industry. With a primary focus on developing models to investigate viral infection and nephrotoxicity, we believe that we will also build relevant platforms to aid in future therapeutic developments for patients with kidney disease.’