Although animal experiments are still needed to study complex interactions between different organ systems, there is growing evidence that animal models do not always provide the best predictions when it comes to how certain diseases will manifest in humans, or how they will respond to treatment. Moreover, the use of laboratory animals has come under increasing scrutiny due to ethical concerns. The advantage of organ-on-chip technology is that it has a better – or at least equally good – predictive value for humans and can help reduce the use of laboratory animals.
Organ-on-chip technology is considered a potential game-changer for many applications. These are chips containing live tissues – such as bone, muscle and skin – grown in controlled environments. The chips mimic the environment of living cells in the human body, causing the cells and tissues to react to stimuli (like toxic substances or medication) in a similar way as they would in reality. This is only achievable to a limited extent with existing laboratory techniques. The chips are capable of mimicking vascular systems, muscle contractions and metabolic processes.
The tissues can come from healthy people or from people who are suffering from a certain disease, making it possible to study organ function and the mechanisms underlying diseases, including hereditary illnesses. The technology also facilitates real-time monitoring of the toxic effects of medications and makes it easier to discover new treatments. By bringing together multiple organs in one chip, the physiology of the human body can be mimicked.
In recent years, some VU staff were already indirectly involved in hDMT through collaborations with colleagues at Amsterdam UMC who had already joined the consortium. With this partnership, VU researchers working on organ-on-chip technology will have the opportunity to introduce themselves and their research or technology to the hDMT consortium. This will allow them to partner with other researchers, for instance, or submit joint grant applications. The consortium has a number of thematic groups for various organ-on-chip models, which VU researchers will now be able to play an active role in. In addition, the consortium operates at both the national and international level to promote organ-on-chip technology and lobby for grant opportunities.
With the ACTA, the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences, VU Amsterdam has a wealth of expertise on bone, skeletal, brain and liver tissue. Moreover, the VU researchers will contribute important fundamental knowledge to hDMT in a number of areas, such as cell metabolism, how mechanical stress determines many aspects of cell behaviour, and the optimal biochemical composition of the fluid in which tissues are grown.
Read more about innovative alternatives to animal testing
- Read an interview with Vivi Heine (VU Amsterdam and Amsterdam UMC) on iPSC technology.
- Watch this video on Sue Gibss’ research (ACTA and Amsterdam UMC).
- For more videos and interviews on innovative alternatives to animal testing being developed at VU Amsterdam and Amsterdam UMC, visit vu.nl/tpi-amsterdam.
- For more information about hDMT, go to www.hdmt.technology/about/organ-on-chip-tech/.
Photo: Astrid Bakker
MechanoChip setup to test a drug against tumour metastases in bone tissue