Humans on a chip – the future for research and drug discovery

Medicines Discovery Catapult, the Medical Research Council (MRC) Centre for Drug Safety Science (CDSS), based at the University of Liverpool, and the National Centre for the Replacement Refinement & Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs), combined forces recently to bring together experts from the field of organ-on-a-chip technology (OOAC) at the Sensor City in Liverpool.

The OOAC technology has the potential to revolutionise the way researchers approach drug discovery. The systems are the creation of representative 3D human organs linked by microfluidic channels on chips the size of USB sticks. It is possible to recreate functionality from many organs including the lung, kidney, heart, brain and skin. Although still in its infancy, the technology is widely used and researched in the US and across Europe.

The event aimed to establish an understanding of existing OOAC technology and capabilities, specifically within the UK, and define a plan of action and strategy to advance. This is vital to ensure the UK remains a competitive participant in scientific advancements, capable of converting British science and innovation into products and technologies for the benefit of patients.

Advances in OOAC will help to humanise the approach to drug discovery by providing sophisticated models of human organ systems that better mimic what happens when patients receive drug molecules; providing patient-relevant data, enabling risk-free biomedical testing, and reducing the need for animal disease models.


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