A new platform that mimics the interactions among up to 10 organs in the human body could eventually replace animal testing of drugs for safety and efficacy.
The platform is a microfluidic system with a series of tiny pumps that move and mix medications, imitating the action of the circulatory system. It is far more complex than single-organ-on-a-chip designs, because it can host up to ten types of organ tissue for up to four weeks at a time.
So far, the technology is pricey, simply because of the range of expertise that goes into getting the platform to work, says Linda Griffith, a biological engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Each organ system requires at least two specialists, and the platform as a whole requires tissue engineering, computational and systems biology, and engineering design, Griffith says. But using human tissue for pharmaceutical research yields higher-quality information than animal models, she says, so the cost will likely drop with time.
Animal models can seem to represent a human disease, but many treatments developed in animals fail human clinical trials. In many...
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