On November 6, 2019, Kyung-Jin Jang of Emulate Inc. and her colleagues reported their study on the lab-grown “liver chip” and its newly discovered benefits to Science Translational Medicine.
Historically, scientists have relied on animal testing to test the effects of drugs and treatments. Animal testing has significantly contributed to the development of science, but it has its limits when studying certain drugs. Not only that, there is a moral issue regarding the use of animals for the benefit of humans.
A recent study conducted by Kyung-Jin Jang and her colleagues proposes an alternate solution to test the effects of drugs. They created a human “liver chip” by growing liver cells and other types of supporting cells on a membrane. These liver chips had a similar reaction to the drugs as real human livers, which suggests endless possibilities.
The researchers were also able to recreate the liver chips of rat and dog liver, allowing them to test and compare human livers to animal livers. In previous studies done on animals, only 71 percent of drugs were correctly identified to be toxic. For example, a drug called Bosentan causes bile salts to build in human livers, but it does not harm rat livers. This is due to the simple fact that human livers are not identical to the livers of other animals.
Kyung-Jin Jang tested the effect of Bosentan on their liver chips, the chips were damaged, which properly mimicked the effect of the drug.
With enough support and funding, the liver chips may take medicine to the next level. Scientists will no longer have to harm animals, which will eliminate the opposition to animal testing due to moral issues. The studies will also produce much more accurate results.
by Sanghyun Kim