Small and simplified organs created in the laboratory, known as organoids, can eventually make medication research and development a more accelerated process; scientists have created a human ‘body-on-a-chip,’ made of a few living tissues at a microscopic extent.
It’s being named the most intricate lab model of the human body yet to have been created, and it could end up being valuable in finding the possible dangers and advantages of drugs before they get tested on actual human beings.
Tiny Organs That Mirror the Real Ones
The small organoids, which are about one-millionth the size of their organic conterparts, are basically a testing ground for researchers looking to create drugs and fight disease. It is the most recent in a long series of advances in being able to replicate minute models of human body parts in a lab.
Similar prototypes of interlinked organoids have already been utilized to precisely reproduce findings on medications that ended up being too toxic to be sold anymore. The technique can discover issues not observed in tests performed in animal testings or on cells grown in Petri dishes. The new advanced model unveils more organ models, enhancing the possibilities of finding dangerous side effects.
“Creating microscopic human organs for drug testing was a logical extension of the work we have accomplished in building human-scale organs,” says medical scientist Thomas Shupe from the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM). “Many of the same technologies we have developed at the human-scale level, like including a very natural environment for the cells to live in, also produced excellent results when brought down to the microscopic level.”
Shupe and his team used a ‘toolbox of biofabrication techniques’ to design the tiny organs, which include depictions of the human brain, heart, liver, lungs, testis, vasculature, as well as the colon. These organoids mirror many of the functions of the real organ they are mimicking and can also include blood vessel cells, immune cells, and the fibroblasts of connective tissue.
Drug Effects Can Now be Seen in 3D
Six of the reduced organs were combined at a close distance to represent a simplified human body, enabling the scientists to see the way different parts of the human anatomy might respond in combination when particular drugs are consumed.
“We knew very early on that we needed to include all of the major cell types that were present in the original organ,” says biomedical engineer Aleks Skardal, from Ohio State University. “In order to model the body’s different responses to toxic compounds, we needed to include all of the cell types that produce these responses.”
The organoids the team of researchers has developed can enhance 3D tests that would have earlier taken place with 2D tissue samples, offering specialists a more detailed and realistic idea of the effects that certain medications can have.
“The most important capability of the human organ tissue system is the ability to determine whether or not a drug is toxic to humans very early in development and its potential use in personalized medicine,” says urologist Anthony Atala, from WFIRM. “Weeding out problematic drugs early in the development or therapy process can literally save billions of dollars and potentially save lives.”
The paper has been published in the journal Biofabrication.