Emulate has announced that its Organs-on-Chips technology has expanded functionality to model viral infection in a human-relevant system, opening new opportunities for studying infectious diseases and better predicting human responses to new medicines.
The new applications are based on results published online today in PLOS One.1 The original research was led by the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, the academic origin of Emulate’s technology and founding team.
Emulate holds an exclusive license for Organs-on-Chips technology from the Wyss Institute for translation into commercial products, including the company’s Human Emulation System.
The study in PLOS One uses the Intestine-Chip to demonstrate how a human pathogenic virus enters polarized cells in the intestine, replicates to drive the infectious disease process, and is released into the intestinal lumen.
This is not possible using conventional human cell cultures. By demonstrating the release and function of a virus in a human-relevant system, Emulate’s Organs-on-Chips technology offers the potential to evaluate efficacy and safety of new medicines prior to human trials.
The technology could also be applied in the future to study viruses ranging from seasonal flu, to diseases of global health concern like Ebola and Zika.
“By modeling viral disease in a human-relevant microenvironment outside of the human body, Emulate’s Organ-Chips provide a new way for researchers to study how viruses act in human cells and how disease caused by viruses may potentially be treated,” said Geraldine A. Hamilton, PhD, President and Chief Scientific Officer of Emulate.
“Infectious diseases pose an enormous burden on global health, and we aim in the future to contribute to the effort to create new medicines by expanding our applications of Organ-Chips for infectious disease research.
“We hope this work will speed up the R&D process, improve response to new epidemics, and help us better understand the process of infectious diseases that have a massive impact on global health."
“We have demonstrated that our Organs-on-Chips technology can accurately model the complex mechanisms by which viruses enter the human body and spread to drive disease development," said Remi Villenave, PhD, Principal Investigator at Emulate and lead author.
"By emulating the release and function of a virus in a physiologically-relevant manner, we now have a first proof of concept demonstrating that our Organs-on-Chips technology can be used to model viral infection.”
The paper is based on research conducted by Villenave while he was at the Wyss Institute working under the direction of Wyss Institute Founding Director Donald Ingber, MD, PhD, who led the research team, and collaborating with the Molecular Virology Team at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. Dr. Ingber is also the Scientific Founder of Emulate, Inc.
The new capabilities to successfully recreate viral infection of the intestine within the Organ-Chips technology can provide unprecedented insight into the disease process at cellular and tissue level, and are designed to offer greater precision and human-relevance than conventional cell culture systems or animal models.
By modeling viruses in a human-relevant system, Emulate’s Organ-Chip products create the potential for new ways to study infectious diseases, including modeling of specific epidemic diseases like pandemic flu and viruses including HIV, Hepatitis B and C, Ebola and Zika.
Based on the Organs-on-Chips technology, Emulate has created a new living Human Emulation System™ that provides a real-time window into the inner workings of human biology and disease — offering researchers a new technology designed to predict human response with greater precision and detail than today’s cell culture or animal-based testing.
Each of Emulate’s proprietary Organ-Chips — such as the lung, liver, brain or kidney — contains tiny hollow channels lined with tens of thousands of living human cells and tissues, and is approximately the size of an AA battery. An Organ-Chip is a living, micro-engineered environment that recreates the natural physiology and mechanical forces that cells experience within the human body.