University of Michigan witnessed a breakthrough analytical study by its research team in collaboration with Seoul National University in South Korea which resulted in the contrivance of a microchip which would facilitate the assessment of the effects of diverse drugs on living kidney cells. Although such studies use animals to carry out the testing, they don’t serve the purpose to an optimum level as they are poor prototypes of human kidneys.
The new chip comprises of two containers used to distribute a variety of compounds. A polyester membrane with cultured human kidney cells positioned between the containers acts as a miniature kidney, filtering whatever comes through the best it can. Testing involves pushing a drug through the membrane and then analyzing the cells inside the chip to see how well they fared.
In the initial study of the device, the researchers tested how the antibiotic gentamicin affected kidney cells and showed that it seems best to give high doses all at once rather than slow-releasing the medication, at least as far as the health of kidney cells is concerned.
"When you administer a drug, its concentration goes up quickly and it's gradually filtered out as it flows through the kidneys," said Shuichi Takayama, U-M professor of biomedical engineering. "A kidney on a chip enables us to simulate that filtering process, providing a much more accurate way to study how medications behave in the body."
Takayama said the use of an artificial device provides the opportunity to run test after test in a controlled environment. It also enables researchers to alter the flow through the device to simulate varying levels of kidney function.
"Even the same dose of the same drug can have very different effects on the kidneys and other organs, depending on how it's administered," said former U-M researcher Sejoong Kim, an associate professor at Korea's Seoul National University Bundang Hospital. "This device provides a uniform, inexpensive way to capture data that more accurately reflects actual human patients."
The findings of the study indicated that a once-daily dose of the medication is significantly less harmful than a continuous infusion—even though both cases ultimately delivered the same dose of medication. The results of the test could help doctors better optimize dosing regimens for gentamicin in the future. Perhaps most importantly, they showed that a kidney on a chip device can be used to study the flow of medication through human organs.
"We were able to get results that better relate to human physiology, at least in terms of dosing effects, than what's currently possible to obtain from common animal tests," Takayama said. "The goal for the future is to improve these devices to the point where we're able to see exactly how a medication affects the body from moment to moment, in real time."
According to Takayama, after traversing the distance of a few years, the world will witness the synthesis of integrated devices mastering the art of prompt testing applied on numerous medication regimens. These would also supply a wide array of data on how they affect human organs.