Heart-on-a-Chip can ‘confidently’ be used in drug discovery, development: CEO

By Melissa Fassbender contact

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/LuckyStep48)
(Image: Getty/LuckyStep48)

Related tags: Organ-on-chips, In vitro, Tara Biosystems, Gsk, Glaxosmithkline, Toxicology, Drug discovery

Engineered cardiac tissues generated using Tara Biosystems' heart-on-a-chip system predict how patients will respond to a range of drugs, as demonstrated in a recent study with GSK.

Researchers from Tara Biosystems and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) have demonstrated that Tara’s engineered heart-on-a-chip system replicated drug responses found in adult humans in a study recently published​ in the Journal of Toxicological Sciences.

After demonstrating the platform’s ability to generate human-relevant engineered cardiac tissues in a study published earlier this year, the NY-headquartered company has validated the platform by analyzing compounds with known responses.

“We can now confidently apply our technology to assess emerging compounds in drug discovery and development and predict potential clinical effects,”​ said Misti Ushio, PhD, CEO of Tara Biosystems.

The findings show that Tara’s system can predict how human hearts will respond to various drugs, a feat that Ushio said has been a challenge in preclinical models – until now.

As Ushio explained, the company’s tissues responded to cardiotherapeutic and cardiotoxic drugs at concentrations similar to the effective doses in humans, which she said highlights the model’s translational relevance.

The Biowire II: Collecting human-relevant data in the lab

The 3D human cardiac tissues, called Cardiotype tissues, are produced using human-induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) matured on the Tara’s patented Biowire II platform.

The platform combines advances in stem cell science and tissue engineering, training cells to form tissues that function as a human cardiac muscle would, said Ushio.

“Unlike other organ-on-a-chip platforms, the Biowire II platform not only matures the tissues,”​ she added, “but also directly measures the force with which these engineered tissues contract.”

“The platform enables researchers to gather human-relevant functional data in the lab, providing a surrogate measure for how effectively the human heart pumps blood in the presence of potentially toxic drugs.”

Cardiotype tissues are suspended over a well on two polymer wires, which when contracted, pull on the wires to produce a measurable deflection. Tara then translates this deflection to features of heartbeat, like the force and beat duration, to understand the potential effect of medicines on the heart. (Video credit: Tara Biosystems)

The in vitro​ approach has piqued the interest of pharmaceutical companies looking to collect human-relevant data earlier in order to shorten drug development timelines and improve efficiency.

“With the Biowire II platform, disease and patient-specific models can also be generated, enabling both precision medicine and discovery of new heart disease medicines,” ​said Ushio.

In addition to GSK, other major pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies have validated the engineered cardiac tissue platform as well. Tara is currently working with more than 20 companies to assess cardiac risk and investigate novel cardiac disease models.

Said Ushio, “We are also expanding the application of our technology to the generation and characterization of disease models for heart failure drug discovery to identify new targets and test the efficacy of new medicines, in addition to their safety.”

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