FDA is evaluating the use of micro-engineered chips as a potential model for studying hazards in food. Last week the agency announced a multi-year cooperative R&D agreement (CRADA) with Emulate, Inc., a manufacturer of organ-on-chip technology that “emulates human biology. The company’s Human Emulation System, a platform that includes organ-chips, instrumentation and software, recreates the natural physiology of human tissues and organs with the intention of providing a “predictive model of human response to diseases, medicines, chemicals, and foods with greater precision and detail than other preclinical testing methods, such as cell culture or animal-based experimental testing,” according to the company’s press release.
“The flexible polymer organ-chips contain tiny channels lined with living human cells and are capable of reproducing blood and air flow just as in the human body. The chips are translucent, giving researchers a window into the inner workings of the organ being studied.” – Suzanne Fitzpatrick, Ph.D., senior advisor for toxicology, CFSAN
In the agency’s blog, FDA Voice, Fitzpatrick states that the chip technology could shed light on how the body processes an ingredient in a supplement or how a toxin(s) affects cells. It could also one day lead to much less animal testing, if at all. The goal of the research, which will begin with a liver-chip, is to be able to predict how organs will respond to exposure to chemical hazards in foods, cosmetics and dietary supplements more precisely than cell culture or animal-based tests. In the future, other organ-chips may be used, including kidney, lung and intestine models.