Scientific advances in cell biology, microfabrication and microfluidics have led to the development of Organ-on-Chips (OOCs). OOCs are microfluidic 3D cell culture devices that closely mimic the key physiological functions of body organs. These chips are not designed to biomimic an entire organ, but simulate the physiology of a single functional unit of an organ system.
The top companies covered are CN Bio Innovations, Emulate, TissUse, Mimetas, Hurel, Nortis, InSphero, Tara Biosystems, AxoSim Technologies, Organovo, Ascendence and HemoShear.
The global market for OOCs was valued at $20 million in 2016. In 2017, the market for organ on-chip was the largest in North America, accounting for more than half of the market.
Human organs-on-chips (OOCs) are miniaturized versions of lungs, livers, kidneys, heart, brain, intestines and other vital human organs embedded in a chip. With advances in OOC technology, drug regulatory bodies have started testing OOCs for their reliability and their use as an alternative to animal testing. For instance, in April 2017, the US FDA announced an agreement with Emulate Inc., a US-based biotechnology company, to evaluate the company’s human organ-on-chip technology in laboratories. The OOC technology offers a less time-consuming and cost-effective way to test drugs, foods, cosmetics and dietary supplements for efficacy and toxicity. Emulate Inc. was founded by researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, and is the first commercial organ-on-chip venture. Companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Merck have also partnered with Emulate to test and develop applications for its human OOC technology.
The Organ-On-Chip market is segmented into Lung-On-Chip, Heart-On-Chip, Liver-On-Chip, Intestine-On-Chip, Kidney-On-Chip, Skin-On-Chip, Blood-Brain-Barrier-On-Chip And Human-On-Chip.
Lung-On-Chip A lung-on-chip model is designed using human lung and blood vessel cells. It is a multifunctional model that has the potential to mimic key structural, functional and mechanical properties of the human alveolar-capillary interface.
Heart-On-Chip A heart-on-chip is a highly complex model which is designed to mimic the contractility and electrophysiological response of hearts in the in-vitro condition
Liver-On-Chip A liver-on-chip mimics one of the most versatile organs. The liver performs a variety of functions including detoxification, protein synthesis, glycogen storage, and hormone production. The liver possesses a complex structure and the hepatic lobule, the primary functioning unit of the liver, consists of hepatocytes, blood vessels, sinusoids and Kupffer cells
Intestine-On-Chip The intestine or gut, is the vital organ for drug absorption. The microchip simulating the key functions of the intestine organ system can evaluate the absorption characteristics of drug molecules.
Kidney-On-Chip A kidney-on-chip is a microfluidic unit lined by human kidney epithelial cells. This device has the potential to simulate the in-vivo physiology of a nephron, which is the functional unit of the kidney. Some of the large pharmaceutical players are employing this organ model for drug screening, lead selection and toxicity screening.
Skin-On-Chip Skin-on-chip is one of the various organ-on-chip models that is under development, which tries to mimic exchange of immune cells, controlled environment and increased barrier function. Skin is an important barrier for the human body, which performs many active and passive functions including regulating the body temperature, sensing heat and preventing dehydration. Understanding whether the skin is healthy or not forms an important part of research which ranges from assessment of chemicals, mainly cosmetics to tumor disease models. Currently animal models are used to test various drugs and cosmetics, but they are poor substitutes because of the difference in skin physiology and immunity. Human ex-vivo models also do not solve the problem, as there is a lack of sufficient samples for testing and there is little room for manipulation with these models.
Blood-Brain-Barrier-On-Chip Blood-brain-barrier is a unique barrier that stops the passage of external compounds in the blood to the nervous system, while allowing essential amino acids and nutrients to pass through. It is made up of three different type of cells: endothelial, pericytes and astrocytes. Blood-brain-barrier-on-chips are of utmost importance to understand and treat neurological diseases.
Human-On-Chip The design of a human-on-chip is achieved by integrating multiple organs-on-chips. Most organs-on-chips are seeded with specified cell lines which represent the physiological functions of individual organs. Hence to evaluate the effects of the drug simultaneously on multiple organ systems, a human-on-chip is developed. The pharmacological effects of a drug molecule on any of the specific organ systems along with the adverse events or side effects which it might cause on other body parts can be evaluated on the human-on-chip. The human-on-chip devices and models are used to shorten the drug discovery cycle and provide critical information on drug safety and efficacy.