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Bio-inspired engineering to fight emerging viral diseases

Leiden Scientists are getting prepared to tackle future epidemics. A group of scientists led by Dr. Alireza Mashaghi has used innovative engineering approaches to make the first “Lassa Hemorrhagic Syndrome on-a-Chip”. World Health Organization has listed Lassa fever among diseases that pose the greatest public health risk due to their epidemic potential and lack of sufficient countermeasures. Lack of appropriate experimental disease models for Lassa fever has hindered the development of therapeutics for this fatal disease.

The Mashaghi lab at Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research used this new technology to test a new drug for Lassa fever. The candidate drug is a Fibrin‐derived peptide that suppresses the vascular integrity loss in Lassa fever, as demonstrated in this study for the first time.

The team has been active in research related to emerging diseases, such as Ebola virus disease. An estimated 100,000–300,000 Lassa infections and approximately 5000 deaths occur annually across West Africa. The lab is supported by two grants from Dutch Research Council (NWO) and a grant by the Elise Mathilde Fund to conduct research into various viral hemorrhagic diseases using interdisciplinary approaches. The team collaborates with companies and field workers in Africa and South East Asia on fight against Ebola, Lassa, and Dengue among others.

Further reading:

Huaqi Tang, Yasmine Abouleila, Alireza Mashaghi, Lassa hemorrhagic shock syndrome‐on‐a‐chip. Biotechnology and Bioengineering Online First (2021)

Huaqi Tang, Yasmine Abouleila, Longlong Si, Ana Maria Ortega-Prieto, Christine Mummery, Donald Ingber, Alireza Mashaghi, Human organs-on-chips for virology. Trends in Microbiology 28(11), P934-946 (2020)

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