The Promise of Microphysiological Systems

Mousechip Crop

Last month, NAVS attended a virtual meeting hosted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine entitled “Microphysiological Systems (MPS): Bridging Human and Animal Research.” We were excited to learn about the progress being made with these tools, which can serve as alternatives to the use of animals in research.

MPS are cell-based platforms intended to mimic the properties of organs and tissues and consist of models such as spheroids, organoids, and tissues/organs-on-chips. NAVS has long advocated for the use of these tools and has supported their development through the International Foundation for Ethical Research (IFER), as the tools have the potential to reduce reliance on animal models in many areas of research.

The conference speakers addressed many important topics during their presentations that directly tie into NAVS’ mission. They discussed how MPS can enable researchers to reduce animal use in pharmacology, toxicology and efficacy assessments in drug development. They also addressed hurdles and knowledge gaps that need to be overcome to further advance the use of these tools among researchers.

There has never been a better time to advance the development and use of microphysiological systems. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency has set a goal to eliminate animal use by 2035 and has acknowledged the important role that human-relevant, cell-based MPS will play. Pharmaceutical companies recognize the high failure rate of animal-tested drugs in human clinical trials and see a role for human-relevant MPS in safety testing. And some of the immune-related therapies that the pharma companies are developing have targets and pathways that are not adequately represented in other animal species and need to be tested in human-relevant systems.

However, challenges remain with respect to getting the human relevant MPS more widely used and accepted among the scientific community. The models need to be more complex to increase their physiological relevance. And while an increasing number of companies are making organ chips commercially available, more communication needs to happen between tissue chip developers and their end users to ensure that data collected from the models will be accepted both internally and for regulatory decision-making.

We are pleased to see that researchers are working hard to incorporate human-relevant MPS into their experiments, and we remain committed to our role in assisting in the development of these smarter, humane tools, as they will benefit humans and animals alike.

Help NAVS and IFER continue to support the development of microphysiological systems by making a donation today.

The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine Website.  “Microphysiological Systems: Bridging Human and Animal Research-A Workshop.” January 2021.