Testing new drugs on lab animals, such as mice or rats, is not ideal because, when tested on humans, many promising drugs fail due to adverse effects on other organs.
Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, in Nashville, Tennessee, are now developing miniaturized living copies of certain human organs they say will greatly improve testing the effectiveness of drugs and chemicals on people.
This small bioreactor, containing just a handful of cells taken from a human liver, also contains sensors that monitor the micro-organ’s health.
John Wikswo is a Professor of Biomedical Science and Physics at Vanderbilt.
“The trick is to make it not too simple, simple enough and then ask it the questions that are most important."
The ultimate goal is to connect several micro-organs, such as liver, heart, lungs and kidney, for testing the effects of a drug targeted at just one of them.
Wikswo says another goal is to design something affordable and accessible to researchers everywhere.
“You got to keep the cost low, so that somebody can have hundreds or thousands of these running in their lab.”
Researcher John McLean says this method could one day be used for designing personalized drugs based, for example, on the specific chemical make-up of a tumor.
“What you would do is that you would look at how those particular cells in that tumor respond to different parts of chemotherapy, such that what you could do is call the physician the next day and say use drug number seven.”
Scientists expected within two years, they will have several interconnected human micro-organs ready for testing new medicines. George Buchti, VOA News, Washington.