'Organ-on-a-chip' microdevice to be used to test lethal radiation levels

08/14/2013 - 00:00

A team at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University has received a $5.6 million grant award from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to use its Organs-on-Chips technology for a novel application of keen interest to national security and health officials: to test human physiological responses to radiation, and to evaluate drugs designed to counter those effects. The effort will also be supported by a team in the Vascular Biology Program at Boston Children's Hospital.

The multiyear project will investigate if Organs-on-Chips -- tiny, microfluidic devices that are lined by living human cells and mimic complex organ physiology -- can be used instead of animals to evaluate the efficacy and safety of medical treatments for radiation sickness, or Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS). In addition to the ethical issues involved in animal testing, animal models often fail to accurately predict human responses -- and human testing involving exposure to lethal radiation is not feasible.