Will Human Organ Chip Experiments Replace Animal Studies?

Hand Chip

This week in Science First, we’d like to share an article written by Dr. Donald Ingber. Dr. Ingber is an expert in organ chip technologies and founding director of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. He also served as the mentor for former NAVS/International Foundation for Ethical Research (IFER) fellowship recipient Bryan Hassell.

Dr. Ingber recently wrote a compelling article for the journal Advanced Science, in which he questions “whether continuing to require results of animal testing for publication or grant funding still makes scientific or ethical sense, and if more physiologically relevant human organ chip models might better serve this purpose.”

His article begins with a consideration of whether animal models can accurately predict human outcomes, noting the high failure rate of animal models used to predict the safety and efficacy of drugs in humans and examining the inherent biological differences between humans and animals used to model human conditions. In this discussion, he also poses the question that NAVS and other humane science advocates have long wondered: over the years, have scientists developed drugs that didn’t produce positive findings in animal models but which, had they proceeded to human clinical trials, would have saved or otherwise improved human lives?

The article then looks at viable cell-based alternatives to the use of animal models in science, highlighting human organoids, organ chip models and models that combine several single organ chip models, and discusses the strengths and weaknesses of these models.

Dr. Ingber concludes that “many animal models are physiologically irrelevant when considering human disease, and thus, demanding use of a poor animal model for the sole sake of ‘satisfying Reviewers’ should be discouraged.” He further asserts that human-relevant organ chip models “provide more physiologically and clinically relevant preclinical models for studying both pathophysiology and pharmacological responses than many animal studies.” However, he believes that more time will be required to convince scientists who rely on animal models of the value of these alternatives.

Dr. Ingber wraps up by stating, “As our collective interest is in human health, our goal should not be to validate results against animals, but rather against humans, because in the end we all know that mice are not men. Perhaps it is time for reviewers to accept this reality.”

We could not agree more.

Please help NAVS and IFER fund the development of viable animal-free alternatives by making a donation today.

Source: Ingber, D. “Is it time for reviewer 3 to request human organ chip experiments instead of animal validation studies?” Advanced Science. October 12, 2020.