Many of the barriers to scientific breakthroughs are based on testing and time. Rightly, any developments need to be based on rigorous experimentation and proven results. What’s exciting about this research from North Carolina is that it holds the possibility of finding a sweet spot where accurate modelling of human organs and efficiency overlap.
Tiny, simplified organs grown in the lab – known as organoids – can potentially make drug research and development a much quicker process; now scientists have produced a human ‘body-on-a-chip‘, comprised of several living tissues at a microscopic scale.
It’s being called the most sophisticated lab model of the human body yet, and it could prove invaluable in working out the possible dangers and benefits of medicines before they get used on actual human beings.
The tiny organoids – approximately one millionth the size of their organic counterparts – are effectively a test bed for researchers looking to develop drugs and fight disease. It’s the latest in a long series of advances in being able to reproduce minute models of human body parts in laboratory conditions.
Similar set-ups of interconnected organoids have already been used to accurately replicate findings on drugs found to be too toxic to remain on the market; the method can catch problems not spotted in tests carried out in animal testing or on cells cultured in petri dishes.
The new scaled-up version introduces more organ models, improving the chances of catching 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).