U.S. National Institutes of Health Awards Grants to Fund Development of Tissue Chips to Help Predict Drug Safety
The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded 17 grants aimed at creating 3-D chips with living cells and tissues that accurately model the structure and function of human organs such as the lung, liver and heart. The grants were announced in a July 24th NIH news release (available on the NIH website by clicking on the link above). Once developed, these tissue chips will be tested with compounds known to be safe or toxic in humans. Data from these tests will help identify the most reliable drug safety signals, ultimately advancing research to help predict the safety of potential drugs in a faster, more cost-effective way. The initiative marks the first interagency collaboration launched by the NIH's recently created National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.
More than 30 percent of promising medications have failed in clinical trials because they are determined to be toxic despite promising preclinical studies in animal models. Tissue chips, which are a newer human cell-based approach, may enable scientists to predict more accurately how effective a therapeutic candidate would be in clinical studies. Tissue chips merge techniques from the computer industry with modern tissue engineering by combining miniature models of living organ tissues on a transparent microchip. Ranging in size from a quarter to a house key, the chips are lined with living cells and contain features designed to replicate the complex biological functions of specific organs.
NIH's newly funded "Tissue Chip for Drug Screening" initiative is the result of collaborations that focus the resources and ingenuity of the NIH, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. NIH's Common Fund and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke led the trans-NIH efforts to establish the program. The NIH plans to commit up to $70 million to the program over five years.
Tissue chips are an example of innovative tools and methodologies that can be used to identify whether substances are likely to be safe or toxic to humans. In its draft 2013-2017 Five-Year Plan, the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM) identifies "Promoting the Application and Translation of Innovative Science and Technology" as one of its core strategies to support the development of predictive alternative test methods. Innovative testing approaches such as tissue chips have the potential to more accurately and efficiently identify substances that may present human health hazards, while reducing and ultimately replacing animal use for this purpose.