Soon, ‘human-on-a-chip’ systems to recreate human function

Soon, ‘human-on-a-chip’ systems to recreate human functionWashington, Nov 23 : US scientists have for the first time used stem cells to grow the key connectors used by the brain to communicate and control muscles in the body.

The laboratory grown neuromuscular junctions between human muscle cells and human spinal cord cells is a critical step in developing "human-on-a-chip" systems. The systems are models that recreate how organs or a series of organs function in the body.

Their use could accelerate medical research and drug testing, potentially delivering life-saving breakthroughs much more quickly than the typical 10-year trajectory most drugs take now to get through animal and patient trials.

"These types of systems have to be developed if you ever want to get to a human-on-a-chip that recreates human function," said James Hickman, a bioengineer at the University of Central Florida, who led the breakthrough research.

"It's taken many trials over a number of years to get this to occur using human derived stem cells."

The goal of the call for action is to produce systems that include various miniature organs connected in realistic ways to simulate human body function.

The technique could potentially be more effective than testing in mice and other animals currently used to screen promising drug candidates and to develop other medical treatments.

The successful UCF technique began with a collaborator, Brown University Professor Emeritus Herman Vandenburgh, who collected muscle stem cells via biopsy from adult volunteers.

Nadine Guo, a UCF research professor, conducted a series of experiments and found that numerous conditions had to come together just right to make the muscle and spinal cord cells `happy' enough to join and form working junctions.

This meant exploring different concentrations of cells and various timescales, among other parameters, before hitting on the right conditions.

Besides being a key requirement for any complete human-on-a-chip model, such nerve-muscle junctions might themselves prove important research tools. (ANI)