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NIH-Funded Tissue Chips would Predict Drug Safety

Published: Friday, August 31, 2012
Last Updated: Friday, August 31, 2012
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Researchers from Cornell University will develop microphysiological modules to model the nervous, circulatory and gastrointestinal tract systems.

Cornell's Michael Shuler  has received National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding to make 3-D chips with living cells and tissues that model the structure and function of human organs and help predict drug safety.

Shuler, the James and Marsha McCormick Chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, and James Hickman of the University of Central Florida (UCF) jointly received one of 17 NIH grants for tissue chip projects.

Shuler and Hickman's grant of approximately $9 million over five years includes subcontracts to UCF, RegenMed, GE, Sanford-Burnham and Walter Reed Army Institute. It will support their work in microphysiological systems with functional readouts for drug candidate analysis during preclinical testing.

The researchers also plan to build a 10-organ system designed to be low-cost yet highly functional to use in drug discovery, toxicity and preclinical studies.

With the funds, the NIH is supporting bio-engineered devices that will be functionally relevant and will accurately reflect the complexity of a particular tissue, including genomic diversity, disease complexity and pharmacological response.

The NIH tissue chip projects will be tested with compounds known to be safe or toxic in humans to help identify the most reliable drug safety signals -- ultimately advancing research to help predict the safety of drugs in a faster, more cost-effective way.

The initiative marks the first interagency collaboration, with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, launched by the NIH's recently created National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. The NIH plans to commit up to $70 million over five years to the program.

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