Researchers advance organ-on-a-chip tech, prep for spin-off and commercialization

By Melissa Fassbender contact

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: WAT-on-a-chip, under a microscope: A syringe introduces an active ingredient so that researchers can observe how the tissue reacts. © Fraunhofer IGB)
(Image: WAT-on-a-chip, under a microscope: A syringe introduces an active ingredient so that researchers can observe how the tissue reacts. © Fraunhofer IGB)

Related tags: Organ-on-chips, preclinical, Drug development

Organ-on-a-chip systems are poised to revolutionize drug development in many ways, say researchers advancing the technology, which could support gender-specific medicine, among other use cases.

Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB have successfully put various tissue types – including white adipose tissue (WAT) and human retinal tissue –onto chips.

A professor at the institute, Peter Loskill told us organ-on-a-chip technology could revolutionize drug development in many ways – though its potential to provide human-relevant data early in the process is the most promising, and could ‘significantly’ reduce the attrition rates, he said.

The technology also could augment the field of gender-specific medicine, Loskill said, noting that there is still a strong sex bias in biomedical and pharmaceutical research, particularly in the preclinical stages.

Organ-on-a-chip technology could address this in two ways: “By generating sex-specific chip-systems by bringing female reproductive tract tissues on-chip and by integrating cells with the right sex and exposing the tissue with the right hormone dynamics,”​ Loskill explained.

(Image: WAT-on-a-chip preparation at Fraunhofer IGB in Stuttgart. © Fraunhofer IGB)
(Image: WAT-on-a-chip preparation at Fraunhofer IGB in Stuttgart. © Fraunhofer IGB)

Fraunhofer IGB – among one of 72 institutes that make up Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, a European organization dedicated to applied research – recently developed a retinal organoid, comprised of light-sensitive rods and cones, retinal pigment epithelium, and ganglion cells.

In collaboration with the University of Tübingen, the researchers are currently working to give the chip visual capacity – developing a system to quantitatively measure electrophysical signals in the rods and cones.

After successfully placing various tissue cultures on a chip, in addition to retinal tissue, the next step is to develop ‘organ-on-a-disk’ systems, which include hundreds of samples.

Loskill described the disk system as an enabling technology for automation and parallelization. “The user-friendliness will ease the adoption into non-expert laboratories,” ​he said, adding that he expects the technology to be ‘widely accessible’ within the next five years.

“We are working with a variety of pharmaceutical companies that already use our technologies,”​ Loskill added. “Moreover, we are preparing a spin-off for one of the technologies and working with other tech-companies to commercialize some of our systems.”

Related topics: Preclinical Research, Preclinical

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