The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the first regulatory body to begin to use miniature models of a human organ – the liver. These models (pictured) are made from different types of human liver cells grown on a scaffold. This scaffold has blood-like fluid pumped through it to deliver nutrients and remove waste products. The FDA want to find out if these ‘livers-on-chips’ can reliably model how our bodies react to new foods, including added colours and flavours, and food-borne illnesses. If its initial trial is successful, the FDA may start testing on kidney, lung and intestine models. These could more closely replicate how the cells in our body behave than is currently possible with computer models and through studies on human tissues and animals. And ultimately reduce the number of animals used in testing. However, it will still be some time before ‘organs-on-chips’ replace traditional research techniques.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.