Organ-On-A-Chip Microfluidics Devices and Fiber Optic Sensing

Scientific Bioprocessing, Inc. (SBI) continues to pioneer new applications for its optical sensors and has made exciting progress deploying them in organ-on-a-chip (OOC) devices.

OOC is a promising technology that is a multifluidic, multichannel, 3D cell culture chip that simulates organ and organ system physiology. These chips are lined with living human cells, and tiny fluidic channels can simulate breathing motions or muscle contractions. Essentially, OOC acts as an artificial organ that can be used for drug testing.

“Organ-on-a-chip is a really exciting technology. You can actually use human tissue on these organ chips so you don’t have to rely on animal models. You can create more reproducible data and clinical data that are more relevant to humans. Animal testing is one of the reasons why drug development can be so painful and expensive,” stated Jake Boy, SBI’s Senior Application Scientist.

“A lot of drugs fail because they don’t work in animal models or if they do work in animals the same results don’t translate to humans. This is particularly true with things like viruses. The organ-on-a-chip models are high throughput and have the potential to transform drug development without harming any animals,” he added.

Until now, real-time OOC sensing and monitoring were impossible due to the platform’s small form factor.

“Historically, there has been no way to real-time sense in OOC. Some OOC experiments have tried to put sensors in their media waste reservoirs, but the concern there is that what you’re really interested in is happening in the chip. By the time you get to and from the reservoirs the results have changed,” stated Boy.

SBI has changed this reality, however. SBI has reduced the size of its fiber optic sensing technology to 3 mm, which is small enough to function and sense effectively on an organ-chip.

SBI is collaborating with Wake Forest University to deploy its 3 mm optical sensors in OOC experiments.

“Wake Forest is working specifically on lung-on-a-chip devices and they came to us to put sensors within the chip itself to sense changes in pH. We worked with them to determine the right layers in which to place the sensors. Typically, we use 5 mm dissolved oxygen sensors and 7 mm pH sensors. In this case, we used 3 of our 3 mm fiber optic sensors, and we also custom made a holder for the chips and the system,” shared SBI Application Scientist Kiersten Bradnam. “Our sensors really fit perfectly within their application”, she added.

The OOC experiments at Wake Forest University are still ongoing and the results have been promising thus far. Bradnam is confident that the university will benefit from using SBI’s sensors and that the relationship will continue into the future.

For OOC, sensing that delivers real-time cellular monitoring could take the platform to new levels of performance. “In the Moment” measurement of key parameters and real-time corrections are invaluable tools for a platform that is essentially testing how human tissue responds to drugs. More effective monitoring and control of what’s going on in the chip will increase drug development success and better predict the safety and efficacy of a drug when it is put into a human body.

SBI’s smallest fiber optic sensors could have a large and pivotal impact on realizing the vast potential of the OOC platform to revolutionize drug development. Contact us to discuss how you can integrate real time sensing in your organ-on-a-chip devices.

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