To assess new drugs and find possible side effects on several organs before these are tested in people, engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed a body on a chip. It is a microfluidic platform which connects engineered tissues of up to 10 organs.
The chip can determine if a medicine to treat one body part will affect another organ, according to the study published on Wednesday. MIT researchers explained that the process can correctly replicate the human organ interactions over several weeks.
Evaluation of antibody drugs
Linda Griffith, a professor of biological engineering and mechanical engineering at MIT, said that the chip could assist in the evaluation of antibody medication and other immunotherapies. Since the animal and human immune systems are different, testing is difficult in non-human trials. However, the system could help with it.
She said that with the chip, researchers can distribute a drug and then search for the effects on other tissues, measure the length of the exposure, and how it is metabolized. Griffith said that the most immediate applications involve modeling 2 to 4 organs from the 10 organ types made up of the liver, lung, gut, endometrium, brain, heart, pancreas, kidney, skin, and skeletal muscles, UPI reported.
She noted that information about a drug’s safety and effectiveness can be offered in preclinical testing in animals but the tests may not show potential side effects in people. She observed that animals do not represent humans in all the facets needed to develop drugs and understand the disease. Griffith said it has become more apparent as scientists study across all kinds of medication.
Griffith identified other factors in humans such as their genetic background, environmental influences, lifestyles, and other drugs being taken can affect drug effectiveness. As a result, there are many times when the manufacturers do not see problems with a drug, especially something that might be widely prescribed until it goes on the market.
Physiome on a chip
She explained that the new equipment will allow tissues to grow and interact with each other and to mimic the functions of human organs. This is the first time that someone had successfully connected more than a few tissue types.
To solve the problems in allowing fluid to flow in and out and a way to manipulate what is happening inside the chip, the researchers developed an open system, instead of using external pumps, to allow it to manipulate the system and remove samples.
The system was adapted from CN BioInnovations, a company in Britain that developed and commercialized the technology. The onboard pumps controlled the flow of liquid between the organs and replicated the circulation of blood, immune cells, and proteins through the human body. It can also create tumors.
Several versions of the chip were created by the scientists which were made up of clusters of 1 million to 2 million cells for every organ. The researchers worked with primary cells that perform much of the functions of the organ.
The team tested the chips if these could successfully deliver a drug to a gastrointestinal tissue by mimicking the oral ingestion of a medication. The researchers observed that it transported to other tissues and metabolized. The process allowed the scientists to measure where the medicine went, its effects on various tissues, and how the drug was broken down.
Model system for Parkinson’s disease
The lab is now developing a model system for Parkinson’s disease. It includes brain, liver, and gastrointestinal tissue. The researchers want to test if bacteria found in the gut can influence the development of Parkinson’s disease.
Griffith pointed out that the advantage of their platform is they can scale it up or down. They can also accommodate a lot of different configurations. She said the field is going through a transition where they can start to get more information out of a three-organ or four-organ system. She foresees it beginning to become cost-competitive since the information available is much more valuable.
Technology Review noted that the cells can live for up to four weeks of testing. The team had used the setup to check how the different model organs respond to painkillers. While it is a crude approximation of the human body, it could be used to test how organs react to early-stage drugs.
The new microfluidic system they developed can culture up to 10 tissue types simultaneously. Most of the current microfluidic systems are enclosed which makes it difficult to manipulate the cells and get samples for analysis. But the new chip is an open system that incorporates several pumps which move the fluid among the different organ systems, in the process, mimicking the circulatory system, Medgadget report.
The study, titled “Interconnected Microphysiological Systems for Quantitative Biology and Pharmacology Studies,” was published in Scientific Reports.
[researchpaper 리서치페이퍼= Vittorio Hernandez 기자]