(From the right) Joyce Zhi Xuen LEE, Prof. Anna Maria BLOCKI, and Christy Wing Tung WONG.

At the poster presentation of Summer Undergraduate Biomedical Research Attachment (SUBRA) in September 2021, Joyce Zhi Xuen LEE , supervised by Prof. Anna Maria BLOCKI and mentored by Ph.D. student Christy Wing Tung WONG, presented her findings on the Effects of Cytokine Storm on Blood Vessel and Lung Cell Cultures. For this presentation Joyce has won the Best Poster and the Judges Commendation Award.

Many lethal cases of COVID-19 infection are caused by a cytokine storm (overproduction of proinflammatory cytokines) leading to multiorgan injury and failure. Yet, how the infection induces hyperimmune response causing cytokine storm on blood vessels especially in the lung is yet been delineated. This highlight a need to establish an COVID-19-like in vitro cytokine storm and investigate its effects on various cell types and 3D models. It is hypothesised that culture medium supplemented with pro-inflammatory cytokines resembles a COVID-19-like cytokine storm and reduces cell viability and proliferation. Her study demonstrates that a complexity of pro-inflammatory cytokines (i.e., the M1 macrophage derived-condition medium) has affected the cell viability of A549 and HUVECs the most, thus is essential to trigger COVID-19-like hyperinflammation, as compared to the introduction of single pro-inflammatory factors. This work shows promise in generating a 2D in vitro cytokine storm model that can be further developed into 3D in vitro microfluidics-based co-culture lung-on-a-chip cytokine storm model that better mimics the lung microenvironment.