BEAT-IT: Heart on a Chip
Drug development at present is a very expensive and inefficient process, which is largely due to the dependence on preclinical tests with animals that cannot fully capture human physiological responses. As an example, it takes an estimated 10-15 years and $5 billion to bring a new drug to the market. $ 3.2 billion of this is spent on preclinical research and development phases, involving experiments using a large number of animal models and animal-derived cell lines. However, animal tests cannot accurately predict how the human organ and body will respond to a new drug because of the inherent differences between human and animal physiology. More than 90% of drug formulations that look promising during preclinical (animal) studies end up being toxic to humans and fail in human clinical trials.
The human heart is of particular interest as one-fourth of the drug formulations that fail are related to heart diseases. According to statistical data, cardiac diseases are the most common causes of death of humans around the world. People with a cardiovascular disease or whom are at high cardiovascular risk need early detection and management using counselling and medicines. In some cases, heart transplantation is the only way to treat patients. However, the lack of a donor and the response of the immune system preclude the treatment in a huge number of clinical cases.
Organ-on-a-chip technology, utilizing true human cells cultured in perfused microfluidic devices, holds great promise to revolutionize pharmaceutical drug testing for heart-related diseases and personalized therapy in the context of ‘precision medicine’. In particular, it is anticipated that organ-on-a-chip technology can substantially replace animal models for drug testing and will enable more predictive, cheaper and more reliable (standardized) assays for biomedical science and drug testing.
The main goal of this project is to fabricate a fully integrated device to culture and pace heart cells and electrically monitor the cellular activity and drug responses, which can serve as a platform to ease drug development as well as study heart diseases.