Researchers at Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science developed an advanced organ-on-a-chip system that incorporates heart, bone, liver, and skin tissue in independent niches that are linked with simulated vascular flows. The system even includes immune cells that circulate within the simulated vasculature. The technology represents an advance in organ-on-a-chip systems as it allows scientists to study the effects of drugs or interventions on multiple organs simultaneously. Moreover, as the engineered tissues are all created using induced pluripotent stem cells derived from a blood sample, it could allow for personalized medicine.
A number of research institutions around the world have developed a variety of unique devices, but creating multi-organ systems remains challenging. After all, each organ in the body enjoys a unique environment that best suits it, despite being linked to other organs through circulation. Recreating these niches on a chip, while allowing communication between them is a formidable task, but these researchers appear to have cracked it after a lot of hard work.
“This is a huge achievement for us — we’ve spent ten years running hundreds of experiments, exploring innumerable great ideas, and building many prototypes, and now at last we’ve developed this platform that successfully captures the biology of organ interactions in the body,” said Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, one of the developers of the new platform.
The chip is the size of a microscope slide and contains bone, skin, heart and liver tissues, which the researchers chose as these tissues all experience significant side-effects during cancer therapy. The system therefore represents a method to test if a specific patient will tolerate a specific cancer therapy.
“Providing communication between tissues while preserving their individual phenotypes has been a major challenge,” said Kacey Ronaldson-Bouchard, another researcher involved in the study. “Because we focus on using patient-derived tissue models we must individually mature each tissue so that it functions in a way that mimics responses you would see in the patient, and we don’t want to sacrifice this advanced functionality when connecting multiple tissues.”
“In the body, each organ maintains its own environment, while interacting with other organs by vascular flow carrying circulating cells and bioactive factors. So, we chose to connect the tissues by vascular circulation, while preserving each individual tissue niche that is necessary to maintain its biological fidelity, mimicking the way that our organs are connected within the body.”
Study in Nature Biomedical Engineering: A multi-organ chip with matured tissue niches linked by vascular flow
Via: Columbia University