NAVS has long recognized the potential that organs-on-chips have for reducing and replacing the use of animals in science, which is why we help fund their development through the International Foundation for Ethical Research. We are pleased to share with you some exciting new research involving these animal-free alternatives.
A collaboration between L’Oreal, the biotech company Hesperos and the University of Central Florida has resulted in the development of an important research tool that could reduce the reliance on animal models for the testing of drugs and cosmetics. Scientists developed a human four-organ system, which links together miniature models of the heart, liver, skeletal muscle and nervous system.
Human-based models such as these seek to overcome limitations of some in vitro models (which have been criticized as being too simplistic) and animal models (which lack human relevance). This four-organ system has the advantage of being more physiologically-relevant, as it captures the complexity of multiple organ models and the “cross-talk” between them. Since it is a human-relevant system, it can help researchers better predict human responses to drugs or other test substances.
While organs-on-chips have been used for acute toxicity studies, those in which drugs are administered once over a short time frame, researchers also see the potential of this body-on-a-chip device for use in chronic testing studies. These kinds of tests evaluate the systemic toxicity of compounds over an extended time frame that is more in line with that of animal studies.
Animal studies often evaluate systemic toxicity over 28 days. Importantly, researchers were able to keep the cells in the body-on-a-chip device alive over that time frame. They were also able to collect important information on their function—daily, and in a non-invasive way—during that time. In the future, this tool, in combination with computer simulators and experimental data, will be able to help predict the toxicity of unknown drugs.
Dr. James Hickman, Hesperos Chief Scientist, noted the potential of this model to reduce or replace the use of animal models in long-term toxicity studies and noted, “The technology could allow us, in the very near future, to move chronic drug experiments from animal models to these novel human in vitro models.”
NAVS is pleased to see such effort in developing improved cell-based models intended to mimic both organ function and communication between organs, as such devices have the potential to better predict the toxicity of compounds than existing animal-based approaches. We will keep you informed of any other developments in this area.
Help NAVS support smarter science that advances discovery, innovation and human-relevant solutions without the use of harmful, flawed and costly animal experiments by making a donation today.