Nav: Home

Organ-on-chip technology enters next stage as experts test hepatitis B virus

February 14, 2018

Scientists at Imperial College London have become the first in the world to test 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.

Dr Marcus Dorner, lead author from Imperial's School of Public Health, said: "This is the first time that organ-on-a-chip technology has been used to test viral infections. Our work represents the next frontier in the use of this technology. We hope it will ultimately drive down the cost and time associated with clinical trials, which will benefit patients in the long run."

Hepatitis B virus is currently incurable, and affects over 257 million people worldwide. Development of a cure has been slow because there is no model system in which to test potential therapies.

However, the Imperial team showed that the liver-on-a-chip technology could be infected with hepatitis B virus at physiological levels and had similar biological responses to the virus as a real human liver, including immune cell activation and other markers of infection. In particular, this platform uncovered the virus's intricate means of evading inbuilt immune responses - a finding which could be exploited for future drug development.

Although this technology is in its early stages, the researchers suggest that it might eventually enable patients to have access to new types of personalised medicine. Rather than using generic cells lines, doctors in the future could potentially use cells from an actual patient and test how they would react to certain drugs for their infection, which may make treatments more targeted and effective.

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.

Dr Dorner said: "Once we begin testing viruses and bacteria on other artificial organs, the next steps could be to test drug interaction with the pathogens within the organ-on-chip environment."

Other organs-on-chips currently in use include the heart, kidneys, and lungs. The authors say using these artificial organs for human pathogens could help researchers to better understand the mechanisms of infectious disease, and to observe how the virus and cells in the organ interact. This could lead to new drugs and treatments for a number of diseases affecting different organs in the future.
-end-


Imperial College London

Related Liver Cancer Articles:

Report looks at liver cancer, fastest-growing cause of cancer deaths in US
A new report provides an overview of incidence, mortality, and survival rates and trends for liver cancer, a cancer for which death rates have doubled in the United States since the mid-1980s
The IT-LIVER European consortium unveils new TGF-beta functions in liver cancer
Recent research results from the European consortium IT-Liver provide a better understanding of the role of the TGF-beta cytokine in liver cancer.
A novel molecular link between cholesterol, inflammation and liver cancer
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a deadly disease with no effective cure that develops in the context of liver diseases associated with chronic inflammation.
One more piece in the puzzle of liver cancer identified
Manuela Baccarini and her team at the Max F. Perutz Laboratories (MFPL) of the University of Vienna and Medical University of Vienna are one step closer to unraveling the mechanisms behind liver cancer.
New approach to liver transplantation: Using a damaged liver to replace a dying liver
There's new hope for patients with liver disease who are waiting for a donor liver to become available for transplantation.
Damage to tiny liver protein function leads to heart disease, fatty liver
A UCF College of Medicine researcher has identified for the first time a tiny liver protein that when disrupted can lead to the nation's top killer -- cardiovascular disease -- as well as fatty liver disease, a precursor to cancer.
Targeted treatment for liver cancer under way
Researchers at the University of Eastern Finland and Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen have discovered a new molecular mechanism that can be used to inhibit the growth of hepatocellular carcinoma, which is the most common liver cancer.
Transplanted liver cells protect against liver failure after massive hepatectomy surgery
Because liver failure often occurs after an extensive hepatectomy, researchers using animal models investigated safer ways to transplant liver cells post-extensive hepatectomy found that rather than transplanting cells into the liver portal vein, transplantation into an extra-hepatic site, such as the intra-mesentery, a fold of membranous tissue on the posterior wall of the abdominal cavity attached to the intestinal tract, can help protect against post-operative liver failure and aid in survival of the remaining liver.
Scientists root out the 'bad seeds' of liver cancer
Researchers have found the 'bad seeds' of liver cancer and believe they could one day reprogram them to remain responsive to cancer treatment, a new USC study has found.
Retroviral RNA may play a part in liver cancer
Researchers have found that retroviral long-terminal-repeat (LTR) promoters -- a type of repetitive element that are widely distributed in the human genome -- are highly activated in hepatocellular carcinomas, the most common type of liver cancer.

Related Liver Cancer Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...