Organ-on-chip technology shows activity of hepatitis B virus

Scientists at Imperial College London have developed and tested an organ-on-a-chip showing how pathogens like hepatitis B interact with artificial human organs. Findings were published in Nature Communications.

Artificial organs provide researchers with the ability to view an organ's cells and physiology for drug testing, but they have not yet been used to evaluate how infectious diseases interact with organs. In this study, researchers use organ-on-a-chip technology to examine how hepatitis B affects an artificial liver.

"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,” said Marcus Dorner, lead author from Imperial's School of Public Health. “We hope it will ultimately drive down the cost and time associated with clinical trials, which will benefit patients in the long run."

Developing a cure for hepatitis B has been a long journey. As a first step, Imperial researchers examined the effect of the hepatitis B virus on a liver and found the virus had similar biological responses to when the virus attacks an actual liver. This finding allows researchers to recreate how the virus evades immune response and could lead to the development of personalized drug development.

"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,” said Dorner.