Tissue chips: advancing disease modeling and drug discovery

A partnership between the National Institutes of Health (NIH), US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) aims to develop 3D-human cell-based tissue chips to dramatically improve the speed and efficiency of drug screening. The program is featured in a recent supplement in Stem Cell Research & Therapy: Stem cells on bioengineered microphysiological platforms for disease modeling and drug testing.

This partnership is the first such inter-agency collaboration launched by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) and the supplement features an overview of the program itself, followed by introductory reviews of each individual project, including:

Preclinical evidence is needed to support the safety of candidate drugs before they can enter clinical trials in humans. Animal testing, which is expensive and difficult to perform, is used to provide this evidence but does not always accurately predict safety and efficacy in humans.

Accurate models of human physiological systems, created using engineered human tissues, will allow rapid screening of candidate molecules for their interactions with human tissues. Early identification and rejection of candidates which are ineffective or show toxicity in such models will save time and money and increase the quality of candidate drugs going on to clinical trials.

The involvement of the FDA from the beginning ensures that the regulatory challenges involved in drug development are fully taken into consideration, while the human tissue chip approach will also offer valuable insights into disease progression, and thus aid research into disease prevention as well as treatment.

Stem Cell Research & Therapy is the major forum for translational research into stem cell therapies, with a particular interest in the use of stem cells for drug discovery and testing, stem cell manufacture, and biomaterials. The journal publishes open access research articles plus reviews, viewpoints and commentaries; alongside the main journal content selected collections of research articles, conference proceedings, reviews and reports may be published as supplements, which are free to access online. All articles published in supplements are subject to peer review; visit the BioMed Central website for more information about publishing supplements.

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