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Organ-on-a-chip Game-changing Technology: Your Organs Can Now be Reproduced on a Chip

From Ahlam Rais

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The ‘Lab-on-a-chip’ technology means to carry out a single or multiple laboratory function on a single chip. This technology has been adopted by many players in the pharmaceuticals and life sciences industry. LAB Worldwide goes one step further to discuss another revolutionary technology i.e. the organ-on-a-chip technology along with its multiple advantages for the drug discovery and development process.

The organ-on-a-chip technology proves beneficial for the development and discovery of new drugs for existing diseases as well as for diseases that are yet to be cured.
The organ-on-a-chip technology proves beneficial for the development and discovery of new drugs for existing diseases as well as for diseases that are yet to be cured.
(Source: luchschenF -

The ‘Organ-on-a-chip’ technology is also referred to as microphysiological systems (MPS). In simple words, this technology can be defined as the process in which human cells are taken from organs found in the body such as heart, gut, lungs, etc. or are engineered in the lab and then placed on a transparent multi-channel microfluidic chip wherein it mimics the function, mechanics and physiological response of an entire organ. The muti-channel chip forms an idle environment for the cells to function smoothly outside its comfort zone i.e. the human body.

Core advantages

The organ-on-a-chip technology proves beneficial for the development and discovery of new drugs for existing diseases as well as for diseases that are yet to be cured. With this technology, developers can now predict how a particular drug will react to an organ or the whole body before human trials are conducted, thus speeding up the research process and saving valuable time. The organ-on-chips are portable, easy to use and is also a low-cost technology which helps researchers save a significant amount of money.

A revolutionary aspect of this technology is that different organ-chips can be connected to each other in order to form a model of a complete human being which portrays the entire functioning of the body. For instance, all the different organ on chips such as the lung, heart, liver, gut, kidney can be connected with each other to understand the functioning of all the organs when a particular drug or disease enters the body.

This technique will also help lab researchers to avoid testing drugs on animals as organ-on-chips offer more accurate results of how the human body will react when exposed to a potential threat or a new drug.

Live examples

In 2020, the pharma company Pfizer partnered with Javelin Biotech, a US-based biotech firm to develop the first organ-on-a-chip exclusively for human pharmacokinetics predictions i.e. to predict the movement of drugs into, through, and out of the body. Together, the companies intend to establish an organ-on-chip based industry leading platform to assess ADME (absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion) properties of small molecules, states a release by the firm. The platform will be equipped with an interactive software along with an organ-on-chip system comprising of four chambers for the human tissues of the liver, kidney, intestine, and tissue distribution. A microflow pumping system that circulates media among the compartments will also be part of the system.

In addition to this, pharma firm Roche has announced a collaboration with Mimetas, a firm that specializes in developing organ-on-chip models. The partnership will focus on developing human disease models in Mimetas’ proprietary organ-on-chip platform in order to characterize novel compounds in inflammatory bowel disease and hepatitis B virus infections, according to a release. The technology will assist and enhance the pharma company’s drug discovery process.

Apart from this, the biotech firm Insphero has created an ‘organ-on-a-chip’ platform which proves beneficial for pharmaceutical and academic researchers as they can integrate 3D spheroid models in single- and multi-tissue organ networks for preclinical drug efficacy and toxicity testing applications, opines a release by the company. The platform is claimed to be the first MPS technology to address important industry needs, such as simple and quick setup and the capability to automatically extract 3D microtissues from microfluidic device for downstream next-generation sequencing, histology, or other rich endpoints, adds the release. The company along with the Bio Engineering Laboratory of ETH Zurich is planning to commercialize its platform for the pharma industry.

Emulate is another biotech company that develops the ‘organ-on-a-chip’ technology and its new gene therapy application – adeno-associated virus (AAV) transduction application – for its liver-chip has been making headlines as it will help to speed up the treatment of genetic diseases. This will assist gene therapy researchers to test the delivery efficiency and safety of AAV vectors in a validated, human-relevant model of the liver. It will also rapidly achieve AAV optimization as well as design iteration for gene therapy, mentions a press release. The liver-chip offers the perfect environment to study the different aspects of the liver for various AAV-based gene therapies.

The future of organ-on-a-chip

Numerous companies are exploring the technology to develop innovative drugs but, in the future, it can become a revolutionary solution for personalized medicines. This means that every human being can now be reproduced on a chip in order to understand which drugs will be effective or have an adverse effect on a person’s body. This will also prove useful to understand the impact of these new drugs on different ethnic groups from across the globe as well as on children. Thus, transforming the process of how clinical trials will be carried out in the future.

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