UCI scientists create organs-on-chips for large-scale drug screening

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Credit: Hughes Lab

Led by UCI professor of molecular biology & biochemistry Christopher C.W. Hughes, the research team successfully established multiple vascularized micro-organs on an industry-standard 96-well plate. Hughes and the study's first author, Duc T. T. Phan, showed that these miniature tissues are much better at reproducing human drug responses than previous model systems. Hughes and his group have shown how the flow of a blood substitute through the vascular network they created can deliver nutrients to multiple kinds of tissues, including heart, pancreas, brain and various tumors.

"This is truly a unique platform – we have recreated in a dish the key element common to all tissues, which is that they depend on blood vessels for their survival. This feature is missing in all previously described in vitro organ cultures," Hughes said.

Hughes' team was also able to establish a functional vascularized microtumor (VMT) within the 96-well plate system and demonstrated its potential for anti-cancer drug screening. Working with a panel of FDA-approved anti-cancer drugs and a human colon cancer, they found that the VMT platform could accurately identify drugs that target the tumor cells, the vessels that supply them, or both.

"This is a major breakthrough", continued Dr. Hughes, "For the first time we can identify in the same assay drugs that target both tumor cells and the vessels that feed them."

The full study can be found online in the Royal Society of Chemistry's journal Lab on a Chip.

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Contributing to this study were, Xiaolin Wang, Brianna Craver, Agua Sobrino, Da Zhao, Jerry Chen, Lilian Lee, Steven George, and Abraham Lee. The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, UCI and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It's located in one of the world's safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County's second-largest employer, contributing $5 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit http://www.uci.edu.

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