Organ-on-a-chip systems

 

In life science and pharmaceutical industries, organ-on-a-chip applications are among of the fastest growing research areas. The convergence of labs-on-chips (LOCs) and cell biology has facilitated this new method of studying human physiology. Organ-on-a-chip devices consist of a microfluidic platform that allows users to tailor a highly biomimetic system in in an artificial environment. The cell culture chips simulate the physiological response of organs.

In vivo complexity in in vitro devices

Micronit Microtechnologies develops and produces organ-on-a-chip devices, thereby offering scientists the use of the latest technological advancements in this field of research. Micronit’s devices are already in use at several research laboratories around the world, proving their suitability in creating artificial models (among which the gut and lung) in the field.

Cell culture platform

The heart of the organ-on-a-chip device is a porous membrane that is directly accessible by, for example, pipetting, making the transfer of the standard biological protocols easy. By assembling the membrane layer with a top and bottom layer and securing it with a dedicated, customisable clamp, a cell culture platform is created with separately controllable fluid-flows above and below. The resealable nature of the device allows to re-open the chips at any time, efficiently recovering the cells and making the imaging easier. Thus, a type of artificial organ is reproduced in a controllable system, and biologically relevant parameters can be measured.

Sensor integration

To allow easy monitoring of the biological content, the newest development is to integrate sensors into the organ-on-a-chip devices. Particular interest has been paid to realising the optical sensing of oxygen. Oxygen plays a significant role in cell biology, as it is the central substrate of the aerobic metabolism and therefore regulates the energy available to the cells.

Optical monitoring

In achieving this sensor-integration, Micronit has partnered with the German company PreSens, expert in contactless sensing and visualising of chemicals in solutions. Thus, Micronit is able to offer organ-on-a-chip devices with integrated oxygen sensing elements. These sensors allow continuous monitoring of the oxygen available to the cultured cells without being in physical contact. The latter minimising the risk of compromising the fluidic integrity and sterility of the chip contents.

 

This organ-on-a-chip platform is equipped with optical sensing. The cell culturing device, which is visible inside the clamping system, has integrated sensing elements (red dots).

Future expectations

What are future expectations in the development of organ-on-a-chip devices? The progress in this field will increase the reliability, and therefore the predictivity, of the in vitro tests, reducing (and hopefully abolishing) the need for tests on animals and humans. In the early phase of the development of pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, animal models often are the only way of obtaining in vivo data that will predict human physiological responses. In this process however, animals are often subjected to interventions that simulate injuries and pathological conditions, and therefore are ethically questionable. Later on in the development process, clinical trials with human participants are often used. These lengthy, expensive and controversial experiments could become obsolete through the further development of organ-on-a-chip devices. This could entirely reform and improve this field of biological and chemical research.

Micronit will continue to develop organ-on-a-chip systems with the aim to capture in vivo complexity in simple in vitro or in silico devices. Are you looking for an organ-on-a-chip solution? Please contact us.