An experimental model to study the effects of pollutants on cardiac tissue

Title of the research project

ALTERNATIVE - environmentAL Toxicity chEmical mixtuRes through aN innovative platform based on aged cardiac tissue model

Scientific area 

Biotechnology , Tissue engineering, Cardiovascular diseases


ALTERNATIVE will develop an innovative platform able to detect the cardiotoxicity of chemicals and pharmaceutical products, as such or combined in mixtures. The platform will consist of a in-vitro model of the human cardiac tissue, coupled with a multi-omics analyses, and integrated into a Machine Learning (ML) risk assessment tool. Specific attention will be paid to the simulation of the effects of chemicals on the cardiac tissue of aged people.

Description of the research project


People are continuously exposed to a great variety of chemicals present in the surrounding environment, such as pesticides or drug traces in water, soil, air, and living organisms. The combined exposure to such compounds can further increase their toxicity.

At the same time, the incidence of cardiovascular diseases is increasing. Those diseases are among the top-ranked causes of death in mature and aged population and the observed increase in incidence may be related to the increasing exposure to chemicals.

The ALTERNATIVE project will design an innovative in vitro platform to evaluate the cardiotoxicity of single chemicals or their mixtures. The platform will comprise a tri-dimensional bioengineered functional human cardiac tissue model cultured in dynamic conditions in a bioreactor, coupled with a system allowing omics analysis (genomics, proteomics and metabolomics). As a result, changes in tissue functionality due to the exposure to chemicals will be evaluated.  Furthermore, artificial Intelligence algorithms and models will be designed for risk assessment and toxicity prediction. Moreover, the project will develop a model of aged cardiac tissue, to specifically evaluate the impact of chemicals on the elderly population, which represent a segment of vulnerable population.

The model will be initially validated on existing toxicity data and then it will be used to predict the toxicity of chemicals and drugs.

Impact on society 

The European bodies responsible for regulating the production and use of chemicals and drugs are looking for precise and reliable tools for the evaluation of the toxicity of single compounds and their mixtures. To meet these demands ALTERNATIVE project proposes a new methodology for cardiotoxicity evaluation, by a more ethical and potentially reliable approach, since it avoid animal testing.

This project has been financed in the framework of the European Green Deal Actions. An increased awareness of the cardiovascular risks associated with the exposure to chemicals, will also make industrial actors and citizens more responsible about the need to reduce the environmental impact of drugs and pollutants.

Working group @Polito 

Gianluca Ciardelli, Full professor, project coordinator

Susanna Sartori, Technician, project manager

Monica Boffito, Researcher

Partner nazionali e internazionali


CST Ltd, Bulgaria

Elvesys SAS, France


Fundació EURECAT, Spain

Eurescom GmbH, Germany

Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri, Italy

IVTech, Italy

Utrecht University, the Netherlands

Medical University Innsbruck, Austria


ALTERNATIVE project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under grant agreement No. 101037090

  • Budget: 5.499.757 euro
  • Start date: 1/10/2021
  • End date: 30/09/2024