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Cedars-Sinai Collaborates on Organs-on-Chip Precision Medicine Project

February 20, 2018
by Heather Landi
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Scientists at Los Angeles-based Cedars-Sinai, in partnership with biotechnology startup Emulate, are pioneering a Patient-on-a-Chip program to help predict which disease treatments would be most effective based on a patient's genetic makeup and disease variant.

The collaboration leverages innovative stem cell science from the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute and Emulate's Human Emulation System, which uses Organs-on-Chips technology to re-create true-to-life biology outside the body. This technology creates an environment where the cells exhibit an unprecedented level of biological function and provides control of complex human biology and disease mechanisms not possible with existing techniques, according to a press release from the Boston-based startup.

Initial scientific findings, recently published in Cellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology, a journal of the American Gastroenterology Association, mark a major milestone in the Patient-on-a-Chip program. Investigators from Cedars-Sinai and Emulate demonstrated how cells of a human intestinal lining created outside an individual's body mirror living tissue when placed inside Emulate's Intestine-Chips, opening the door to personalized testing of drug treatments.

The research points to a host of practical clinical applications that can benefit patients, according to the press release. By placing a patient's cells in Organ-Chips and exposing those cells to a particular drug or series of drugs, clinicians could gain more accurate information about how that individual would respond to treatment, avoiding the risk of administering a drug that may cause harm or is ineffective and costly.

"The medical potential of a Patient-on-a-Chip is extraordinary," Clive Svendsen, Ph.D., director of the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute. "As examples, scientists could use Organs-on-Chips to create a living model of a patient with Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Crohn's disease, a debilitating inflammatory bowel disorder linked to several gene mutations. By flowing drugs through Organ-Chips containing the patient's own cells and tissue, we could predict which treatment is most beneficial for that patient."

Cedars-Sinai and Emulate each have contributed integral components to the Patient-on-a-Chip program.

Cedars-Sinai scientists can harvest cells from the blood or skin of an individual and reprogram them into induced pluripotent stem cells, which can be made into any organ cell (such as those from the lung, liver or intestine), each bearing the unique genetic fingerprint and characteristics of the person.

Emulate's Human Emulation System - which is made up of Organs-on-Chips, instrumentation and software apps - re-creates the natural physiology cells experience within the body. Each chip, which is approximately the size of an AA battery, features tiny channels lined with tens of thousands of living human cells, recreating the smallest functional unit of an organ. Air and fluid, such as blood, can be passed through the chips, creating a micro-engineered environment that is a "home-away-from-home" for cells, where they behave just as they do in the body, the company states.

"By creating a personalized Patient-on-a-Chip, we can really begin to understand how diseases, medicines, chemicals and foods affect an individual's health," Geraldine A. Hamilton, Ph.D., president and chief scientific officer of Emulate, Inc. "The goal of Emulate working with Cedars-Sinai is to advance and qualify the system for new clinical applications and ultimately democratize the technology so that it can have broad impact on patient healthcare."

In the future, a Patient-on-a-Chip also could be used to predict how a disease progresses in an individual, allowing for the design of personalized preventive medicine and treatment regimens to promote wellness and prevent disease, Robert Barrett, Ph.D., an assistant professor of Medicine at Cedars-Sinai and senior author of the study. Other applications include designing clinical trials to identify at-risk populations for adverse drug reactions.

 

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