Angelo Accardo has been awarded two NWO Open Competition Grants

News - 07 September 2021 - Webredactie 3mE

The brain is the most important organ of our central nervous system and can suffer from several impairing diseases and disorders for which a cure has not been found yet. Brain cancer and autism are two examples. To better understand these diseases and pave the way for potential therapies, it is of paramount importance that we build in-vitro biomimetic models of the 3D cellular brain networks. Angelo Accardo, assistant professor at the Department of Precision and Microsystems Engineering (PME), has been awarded two NWO Open Competition Grants to address this need by developing 3D engineered cell micro-environments using light-assisted fabrication techniques.

Open Competition ENW-XS Grant

The first project, funded by the  Open Competition ENW-XS Grant (€ 50.000), is about  3D engineered brain cancer microenvironments for proton radiobiology and will be carried out in collaboration with the Leiden University Medical Center and the Holland Proton Therapy Center:

“Glioblastoma is a devastating cancer of the brain with an extremely poor prognosis. A relatively new cancer treatment is radiotherapy with proton beams, which can be targeted to destroy cancer cells while sparing surrounding healthy tissue. However, despite the treatment’s compelling biological and medical rationale, little is known about the effects of protons on glioblastoma at the cellular level. We will pioneer the most realistic three-dimensional in-vitro model of glioblastoma networks to date by exploiting two-photon polymerization. The model will pave the way for routine, and even per-patient assessment of the efficiency of proton therapy on glioblastoma cells.”

The XS category emphatically strives to encourage curiosity-driven and bold research involving a relatively quick analysis of a promising idea. Read more.

Open Competition ENW-M-2 Grant

The second project, funded by the Open Competition ENW-M-2 Grant (€ 700.000), will be carried out in collaboration with Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam Associate professor Vivi Heine, appointed at Emma Children's Hospital, and will deal with 3D cell-instructive engineered stem cell models for neuropsychiatric disorders.

“Recent developments in the stem cell and organoid field provided new tools to study cellular mechanisms in the healthy and diseased brain. However, these model systems lack structural and biochemical properties of the 3-dimensional microenvironment that majorly influence cellular and network properties. By combining expertise in developmental neurobiology and microfabrication, we aim to engineer multi-scale brain-inspired 3D scaffolds to mature induced pluripotent stem cells into neural cultures of healthy subjects and patients affected by autism spectrum disorders. This integrated approach can be potentially used to ‘diagnose’ patient cell phenotypes and to screen compounds for the treatment of disease.”

M-grants are intended for innovative, high-quality, fundamental research and/or studies involving matters of scientific urgency. Read more.

Read more about Accardo’s research in ‘ Engineering 3D Biocompatible Scaffolds for Neuronal Network Growth’.