The success at UCF is a critical step in developing "human-on-a-chip" systems. The systems are models that recreate how organs or a series of organs function in the body. Their use could accelerate medical research and drug testing, potentially delivering life-saving breakthroughs much more quickly than the typical 10-year trajectory most drugs take now to get through animal and patient trials.
"These types of systems have to be developed if you ever want to get to a human-on-a-chip that recreates human function," said James Hickman, a UCF bioengineer who led the breakthrough research. "It's taken many trials over a number of years to get this to occur using human derived stem cells."
Hickman's work, funded through the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) at the National Institutes of Health, is described in the December issue of Biomaterials. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0142961211010556)
Hickman is excited about the future of his research because several federal agencies recently launched an ambitious plan to jump-start research in "human-on-a-chip" models by making available at least $140 million in grant funding.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) are leading the research push.
The goal of the call for action is to produce systems that include various miniature organs connected in realistic ways to simulate human body function. This would make it possible, for instance, to test drugs on human cells well before they could safely and ethically be tested on living humans. The technique could potentially be more effective than testing in mice and other animals currently used to screen promising drug candidates and to develop other medical treatments.
Such conventional animal testing is not only slow and expensive, but often leads to failures that might be overcome with better testing options. The limitations of conventional testing options have dramatically slowed the emergence of new drugs, Hickman said.
The successful UCF technique began with a collaborator, Brown University Professor Emeritus Herman Vandenburgh, who collected muscle stem cells via biopsy from adult volunteers. Stem cells are cells that can, under the right conditions, grow into specific forms. They can be found among normal cells in adults, as well as in developing fetuses.
Nadine Guo, a UCF research professor, conducted a series of experiments and found that numerous conditions had to come together just right to make the muscle and spinal cord cells "happy" enough to join and form working junctions. This meant exploring different concentrations of cells and various timescales, among other parameters, before hitting on the right conditions.
"Right now we rely a lot on animal systems for medical research but this is a pure human system," Guo said. "This work proved that, biologically, this is workable."
Besides being a key requirement for any complete human-on-a-chip model, such nerve-muscle junctions might themselves prove important research tools. These junctions play key roles in Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, in spinal cord injury, and in other debilitating or life threatening conditions. With further development, the team's techniques could be used to test new drugs or other treatments for these conditions even before more expansive chip-based models are developed.
UCF Stands For Opportunity --The University of Central Florida is a metropolitan research university that ranks as the second largest in the nation with more than 58,000 students. UCF's first classes were offered in 1968. The university offers impressive academic and research environments that power the region's economic development. UCF's culture of opportunity is driven by our diversity, Orlando environment, history of entrepreneurship and our youth, relevance and energy. For more information visit http://news.ucf.edu
Barbara Abney | EurekAlert!
Transport of molecular motors into cilia
28.03.2017 | Aarhus University
Asian dust providing key nutrients for California's giant sequoias
28.03.2017 | University of California - Riverside
The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.
To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
28.03.2017 | Life Sciences
28.03.2017 | Information Technology
28.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy