Organs-on-chips could make difference in drug screening

Researchers, led by University of California, Irvine professor Christopher C.W. Hughes, have developed multiple vascularized organs on a 96-well plate. These tissues give researchers a look at how the flow of blood through the vascular system deliver nutrients to the entire body.

"This is truly a unique platform—we have recreated in a dish the key element common to all tissues, which is that they depend on blood vessels for their survival. This feature is missing in all previously described in vitro organ cultures," said Hughes.

Along with Duc T. T. Phan, first author on the study, Hughes and the team established a functional vascularized microtumor (VMT) with potential for anti-cancer drug screening. Along with a panel of FDA-approved anti-cancer drugs and a human colon cancer, researchers showed the accuracy of the VMT to identify drugs capable of targeting tumor cells and/or the vessels that supply them with blood.

"This is a major breakthrough," said Hughes. "For the first time we can identify in the same assay drugs that target both tumor cells and the vessels that feed them."