Arnaud Nicolas develops TEER for organs-on-chips
Developing Trans-Epithelial Electrical Resistance assays for the OrganoPlate®
Trans-Epithelial Electrical Resistance or TEER is a benchmark readout to assess epithelial barrier function. TEER assays determine the electrical resistance of a cell barrier. In other words: how easily ions can pass through tight junctions between cells. Arnaud develops a unique approach to TEER, capable of measuring up to 96 culture chips in an OrganoPlate® in one go. It’s very fast, so Arnaud jokes: “I guess researchers will be complaining because they won’t have time to grab a coffee.”
Why are you so excited about it?
Arnaud: “It’s just very exciting to work on something so highly in demand in the field. But what I also like is that my work is cross-disciplinary. That’s actually the main reason why I decided to join MIMETAS: I wanted to combine biology and engineering. While working on this TEER device, I’m involved in product design, engineering, cell biology and a lot more. I’m part of a great team. And there is of course the coolness factor: to develop a product that is high density, fast, sensitive and that will beat everything else available is pretty hard to resist.”
What is your background?
Arnaud: “I have studied Biomedical Engineering in Strasbourg, with lots of physics, electronics and information technology. When I started working as a Ph.D. student at MIMETAS, I actually had to learn ‘real’ biology, such as cell biology and tissue culture and at the same time get acquainted with the OrganoPlate®, which was pretty novel at that time. In addition to study and work, I’m into a lot of different things. For example, I'm an actor in an improvisation theatre group in The Hague and do quite a bit of sports, especially martial arts, such as judo and jiu-jitsu.
What is TEER used for?
Arnaud explains: “TEER is used in a lot of toxicology applications, but in high-throughput it can also be used to develop and study novel pharmaceutical compounds. For example, in some brain diseases, the Blood-Brain Barrier (BBB) is affected and gets leaky. High-throughput TEER can be used to develop a drug that could restore the leak-tightness of the BBB. On the other hand, TEER measurements can also help to develop drugs that ‘open up’ the BBB temporarily, in order to deliver a drug to the brain that is normally not able to pass the BBB. And finally, my TEER device will be important to further validate the OrganoPlate® as an organ model platform."
“I think what I love most about being at MIMETAS”, Arnaud gestures, “is that I’m involved in the development of technology that makes life even easier in the organ-on-a-chip field. At the time I joined the company, there weren't a lot of tools available, like image processing or a dedicated perfusion rocker. And now they’re all here, including my TEER device. That’s just really cool.”