Thursday, 5 April 2018

Organ-on-chip technology tests hepatitis B virus

Scientists at Imperial College London have tested how pathogens interact with artificial human organs. Artificial human organs, or organ-on-chip technologies, simulate a whole organ's cell make up and physiology. They act as alternatives to animal models in drug safety testing, but until now they have not been used to test how infectious diseases interact with the organs.

Now, researchers from Imperial are using this technology to determine how pathogens interact with artificial organs. They hope it will help us to better understand the resulting disease and develop new treatments.

In particular, the team used an artificial liver -- originally developed at MIT, the University of Oxford, and biotechnology company CN Bio Innovations -- and tested its response to hepatitis B virus infection.

Organs-on-chips house live human cells on scaffolds that are physiologically, mechanically, and structurally similar to the emulated organ. Drugs or viruses are passed through the cells via tubes that simulate blood flow through the body. The living cells used in tests last much longer on the chip than in traditional laboratory methods, and require lower infection doses compared to traditionally used model systems.

Hepatitis B is very infectious and causes liver cancer and cirrhosis. Thus, the researchers say, it was the best virus to use for the first test as its interactions with the immune system and liver cells are complex, but with devastating consequences for the tissues.


A. M. Ortega-Prieto, J. K. Skelton, S. N. Wai, E. Large, M. Lussignol, G. Vizcay-Barrena, D. Hughes, R. A. Fleck, M. Thursz, M. T. Catanese, M. Dorner. 3D microfluidic liver cultures as a physiological preclinical tool for hepatitis B virus infectionNature Communications, 2018; 9 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-02969-8

 Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle

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