Animal testing is necessary for the safety of drug development, but success in animal testing does not always indicate success in human trials. An animal’s reaction to a drug can drastically vary from that of a human’s which can lead to unforeseen adverse effects and inaccurate findings. In addition to health threats, there are financial risks associated with misleading results in an animal study. Clinical trials are expensive and a lot of money could potentially be wasted if a drug shows promise in animal trials but turns out to be ineffective in humans. Time, money, and even lives can be saved if there were a more accurate method of testing new drugs.
The organ on a chip is a microchip lined with human cells that exactly replicates the function and environment of full sized organs in the body. Take for example the lung on a chip. Inside the lung on a chip are two hollow channels separated by a porous membrane with one side coated in lung cells and the other in pulmonary cells. This structure creates two chambers, one allowing for air flow and the other for blood flow, mimicking the function and composition of the air sacs in a real human lung.
Organs on chips could be beneficial in many applications of the drug development world. Researchers could test a drug’s impact on a certain part of the body and closely observe the pharmacokinetics and their impact on each system. This would help scientists better predict side effects and whether or not a certain drug is safe. When all of the organs on chips are put together, researchers will be able to discover exactly how the human body will react to the drug being administered. The implementation of organs on chips would provide more dependable results than that of animal testing. This is because trials on animals oftentimes produce outcomes that do not accurately reflect what would occur in humans. For example, an animal’s body may metabolize drugs quicker or be more tolerant of a certain compound which are important factors to consider when developing a drug.
However promising it may seem, the organ on a chip has a ways to go before it eliminates animal testing. Insight into neurological side effects is gained from animal testing which is information that could not otherwise be observed. Additionally, Organs on chips and animal testing could be used complementary to create a more complete picture as scientists work to develop more alternatives. Regardless, a step towards eliminating animal testing is a monumental achievement and the organs on chips will certainly revolutionize early stage drug development like never before.
Attachments: Organ-On-A-Chip to Eliminate Animal Testing