What if the side effects of medications could be determined by testing drugs on miniature model organs on microchips instead of lab rats or humans? Researchers in the Netherlands think this may be possible with a discovery called guts-on-chips.
Guts-on-chips are model organs that contain human organ cells on microchips, and can imitate a working human organ. Researchers at the University of Leiden found that when guts-on-chips were exposed to aspirin for a long period, the chips developed imitative gastrointestinal perforation, a hole that develops through the wall of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large bowel, rectum or gallbladder. This condition can be deadly and is known to happen in the gastrointestinal system of people that take aspirin very often.
The research indicates that organs-on-chips are a potentially viable way of testing a drug for side effects and efficacy, according to University of Leiden Professor of Analytical Biosciences Thomas Hankemeier, PhD. He added that model organs can make it easier for scientists to evaluate whether drug candidates are harmful or effective earlier on in the development process.
This is significant because, as an experimental model, guts-on-chips do not require the use of lab animals or humans to test products and medications. With this model, scientists may be able to find out how medications might help or harm people without subjecting humans to potentially detrimental or deadly side effects.