The latest organ-on-a-chip from Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering reproduces the structure, functions and cellular make-up of bone marrow, a complex tissue that until now could only be studied intact in living animals, Institute researchers report in the May 4, 2014, online issue of Nature Methods. The device, dubbed "bone marrow-on-a-chip," gives scientists a much-needed new tool to test the effects of new drugs and toxic agents on whole bone marrow.
Specifically, the device could be used to develop safe and effective strategies to prevent or treat radiation's lethal effects on bone marrow without resorting to animal testing, a challenge being pursued at the Institute with funding from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In an initial test, the engineered bone marrow, like human marrow, withered in response to radiation unless a drug known to prevent radiation poisoning was present.
The bone marrow-on-a-chip could also be used in the future to maintain a cancer patient's own marrow temporarily while he or she underwent marrow-damaging treatments such as radiation therapy or high-dose chemotherapy.
"Bone marrow is an incredibly complex organ that is responsible for producing all of the blood cell types in our body, and our bone marrow chips are able to recapitulate this complexity in its entirety and maintain it in a functional form in vitro," said Don Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., Founding Director of the Wyss Institute, Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital, Professor of Bioengineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and senior author of the paper.
Ingber leads a large effort to develop human organs-on-chips small microfluidic devices that mimic the physiology of living organs. So far Wyss Institute teams have built lung, heart, kidney, and gut chips that reproduce key aspects of organ function, and they have mor
|Contact: Dan Ferber|
Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard