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Helmholtz Munich I Daniela Barreto

Vascular Research: Introducing Microfluidic Vessel-on-Chip Platform

Featured Publication, Pioneer Campus,

At the helm of a new era in vascular research, Prof. Matthias Meier and his team at the Helmholtz Pioneer Campus (HPC) at Helmholtz Munich, introduce a cutting-edge microfluidic vessel-on-chip technology. This innovation leverages human stem cells to study of vascular diseases, signaling a leap towards personalized treatments and reduced animal testing. The study was published in Cell Reports.

The fight against cardiovascular diseases, leading causes of death worldwide, is hampered by the inadequacies of traditional models to mimic human vascular conditions accurately. The search for more reliable human blood vessel models is urgent, as existing methods fall short of capturing the complexity of human diseases.

Stem Cells Power Precise Vascular Disease Modeling

Addressing this critical need, a team around Matthias Meier, Principal Investigator of the group “Bioengineering and Microfluidics” at the HPC, developed a sophisticated microfluidic vessel-on-chip platform. Utilizing human pluripotent stem cell-derived endothelial cells, this platform replicates the dynamic environment of human blood vessels in a genomic defined setup. The microfluidic design allows precise control over the biochemical and mechanical stimuli affecting the cells, paving the way for groundbreaking insights into vascular health and disease.


Organ-on-Chip and Vessel-on-Chip are both types of microfluidic platforms used in biomedical research, focusing on different aspects of biological systems. Organ-on-Chip platforms aim to replicate the physiological functions and microenvironment of specific organs or tissues in the human body (e.g., the liver, lung, or heart). Vessel-on-Chip platforms are designed specifically to mimic the structure and function of blood vessels or vascular networks and are particularly useful for studying diseases related to the cardiovascular system, such as atherosclerosis, thrombosis, and inflammation.


Through meticulous experimentation, the scientists demonstrated the platform's ability to model the early stages of atherosclerosis. The stem cell-derived endothelial cells were subjected to a flow of oxidized low-density-lipoprotein (LDL) and free fatty acids within the microfluidic channels, simulating conditions seen in patients with metabolic syndrome. This exposure led to observable changes in cell behavior and protein expression, closely resembling those found in human disease states.

Advancing Personalized Treatments Ethically

The development of this microfluidic vessel-on-chip technology by Matthias Meier's team marks a pivotal advancement in vascular research. It opens new avenues for exploring disease mechanisms, testing therapeutic interventions, and advancing towards personalized medicine. Beyond its scientific merits, this technology embodies a commitment to ethical research by offering an alternative to animal models, aligning with global efforts to conduct humane and relevant scientific inquiry. Through this breakthrough, the team at the Helmholtz Pioneer Campus not only advances the understanding of vascular diseases but also sets a new standard for research in the life sciences.


About the scientist

Prof. Matthias Meier, Principal Investigator of the group “Bioengineering and Microfluidics” at the Helmholtz Pioneer Campus at Helmholtz Munich

Original publication

Marder et al., 2024: Stem cell-derived vessels-on-chip for cardiovascular disease modeling. Cell Reports. DOI: 10.106/j.celrep.2024.114008