Science Fiction? Israeli & US Researchers Create “Human On A Chip” For Drug Testing


Israeli and US researchers published two groundbreaking studies on Monday about an Organ-on-a-Chip platform – nine mini human Organs-on-a-Chip that can be connected to form a mini “Human-on-a-Chip” for pharmacologists to test drugs in lieu of “real” humans.

Organs-on-a-chip, which were first developed at Harvard in 2010, are cells from specific organs placed in a plastic cartridge (the chip) the size of a USB flash drive through tissue engineering techniques. The word chip does not refer to microchips and has no relation to computers.

The new development is the “Human-on-a-Chip” that was formed after the researchers figured out how to link the nine Organs-on-a-Chip to mimic a human being. They connected the Heart-on-a-Chip, the Brain-on-a-Chip, the Kidney-on-a-Chip, etc. to form a mini “Human-on-a-Chip” and they proved that it reacts to drugs just like human organs do in a clinical trial, said Dr. Ben Maoz of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Biomedical Engineering and Sagol School of Neuroscience in an interview with The Times of Israel. The individual “Organ Chips” are linked in a way that mimics blood flow between organs in a human body.

The unique invention is aimed at solving the difficulties of adequately testing new drugs to ensure they are safe and effective for humans. Maoz said that researchers usually test drugs on rodents and if the tests are successful they test them on humans. The problem is that 60%-90% of the drugs that passed the test for rodents fail in humans, making the drug development process a lengthy and expensive one.

The expedient process would be to test drugs from the get-go on humans but until now there was no ethical or safe way to do so. But with the trailblazing “Human-on-a-Chip” there is “a functioning comprehensive multi Organ-on-a-Chip (Organ Chip) platform” that reacts to drugs just like humans and allows in-vitro-to-in-vivo translation (IVIVT) of human drug pharmacology.

The two studies, led by Dr. Maoz of Tel Aviv University and Prof. Donald Ingber of Harvard University were published in Nature Biomedical Engineering on Monday.

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)