Tag Archives: organs-on-chips

Predicting drug side effects with guts-on-a-chip

It’s been a while since I’ve featured a story about a technology that could drastically reduce (or even eliminate) animal testing. Researchers in the Netherlands have announced some guts-on-a-chip research that may do just that. From an Aug. 22, 2017 news item on ScienceDaily,

Research conducted at Leiden has established that guts-on-chips respond in the same way to aspirin as real human organs do. This is a sign that these model organs are good predictors of the effect of medical drugs on the human body.

A method to test medical drugs for efficacy and potential side-effects, but then much cheaper and using the fewest possible lab animals: this is likely to be possible in future thanks to organs-on-chips, miniature model organs on microchips. In these model organs, which are equipped with human organ cells and microfluidic channels, researchers and pharmacists can mimic the working of an organ.

An Aug. 17, 2017 University of Leiden (Universiteit Leiden) press release, which originated the news item, provides more detail,

Leiden researchers, their spin-off company Mimetas and pharmaceutical company Roche have now shown that one type of organ chip experiences the same side-effects from the drug aspirin as the same organ in the human body. This is good news, because it is a sign that these miniature model organs are good predictors of the effect of medical drugs in the human body.


The researchers exposed 357 guts-on-chips for a significant period to the substance acetylsalicylic acid, better known as the analgesic aspirin. It has been known for a long time already that this substance can lead to gastrointestinal perforation, a complication that can be fatal if untreated. ‘We saw exactly the same side-effects occur in our guts-on-chips,’ says Professor of Analytical Biosciences Thomas Hankemeier. ‘In our model guts the gut wall also became more permeable after the drug had been administered.’

Effectiveness of candidate drugs

According to Hankemeier, the research shows that organs-on-chips are suited to testing a medical drug for efficacy and side-effects. This is good news for pharmacists, because the model organs make it easier for them to evaluate whether candidate drugs are effective or harmful. Many substances would be excluded from futher research before a drug entered the lab animal phase. This would help reduce the cost of drug production and mean less animal testing.

Diagnosing diseases

Organs-on-chips have taken off in recent years. They will be increasingly important in the near future, not just in drug development but also in the diagnosis of disease. Leiden researchers are at the forefront of this development. Hankemeier and a number of other groups (Erasmus MC, VUmc, RU Groningen) have been awared a 1.5 million ZonMW grant to research the effect of the body’s micro-organisms in the gut on the development of dementia. Organ-on-a-chip technology will play an important role here. Mimetas is the first company in the world to produce and sell organ chips on a large scale.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Membrane-free culture and real-time barrier integrity assessment of perfused intestinal epithelium tubes by Sebastiaan J. Trietsch, Elena Naumovska, Dorota Kurek, Meily C. Setyawati, Marianne K. Vormann, Karlijn J. Wilschut, Henriëtte L. Lanz, Arnaud Nicolas, Chee Ping Ng, Jos Joore, Stefan Kustermann, Adrian Roth, Thomas Hankemeier, Annie Moisan, & Paul Vulto. Nature Communications 8, Article number: 262 (2017) doi:10.1038/s41467-017-00259-3 Published online: 15 August 2017

This paper is open access.

You can find Mimetas here.

Using Google Glass to monitor organs-on-chips

Google Glass : Explorer version Credit: Dan Leveille, twitter.com/danlev Courtesty: Wikimedi

Google Glass: Explorer Edition Credit: Dan Leveille, twitter.com/danlev Courtesy: Wikimedia

Researchers have introduced Google Glass as a new application for monitoring and controlling organs-on-chips according to a March 18, 2016 news item on ScienceDaily,

Investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH [Boston, Massachussetts]) have developed hardware and software to remotely monitor and control devices that mimic the human physiological system. Devices known as organs-on-chips allow researchers to test drug compounds and predict physiological responses with high accuracy in a laboratory setting. But monitoring the results of such experiments from a conventional desktop computer has several limitations, especially when results must be monitored over the course of hours, days or even weeks.

Google Glass, one of the newest forms of wearable technology, offers researchers a hands-free and flexible monitoring system. To make Google Glass work for their purposes, Zhang et al. custom developed hardware and software that takes advantage of voice control command (“ok glass”) and other features in order to not only monitor but also remotely control their liver- and heart-on-a-chip systems. Using valves remotely activated by the Glass, the team introduced pharmaceutical compounds on liver organoids and collected the results. …

A March 18, 2016 BWH press release on EurekAlert, which originated the news item, describes the hopes for this new combined platform,

“We believe such a platform has widespread applications in biomedicine, and may be further expanded to health care settings where remote monitoring and control could make things safer and more efficient,” said senior author Ali Khademhosseini, PhD, Director of the Biomaterials Innovation Research Center at BWH.

“This may be of particular importance in cases where experimental conditions threaten human life – such as work involving highly pathogenic bacteria or viruses or radioactive compounds,” said leading author, Shrike Zhang, PhD, also of BWH’s Biomedical Division.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Google Glass-Directed Monitoring and Control of Microfluidic Biosensors and Actuators by Yu Shrike Zhang, Fabio Busignani, João Ribas, Julio Aleman, Talles Nascimento Rodrigues, Seyed Ali Mousavi Shaegh, Solange Massa, Camilla Baj Rossi, Irene Taurino, Su-Ryon Shin, Giovanni Calzone, Givan Mark Amaratunga, Douglas Leon Chambers, Saman Jabari, Yuxi Niu, Vijayan Manoharan, Mehmet Remzi Dokmeci, Sandro Carrara, Danilo Demarchi, & Ali Khademhossein. Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 22237 (2016) doi:10.1038/srep22237 Published online: 01 March 2016

This paper is open access.