Even though medical technology continues to develop at an astonishing rate, one area that has lagged behind is the ability to efficiently and accurately test drugs on human beings. Currently, animal testing often precedes human testing. This can be inaccurate and also carries moral questions. The other method is cell testing, which allows a drug to be tested on cells in petri dishes and is oftentimes too simple to give a complete picture of the effect of the drug.
This Mashable article gives a rundown on a $24 million grant recently awarded to research the development of miniature 3D printed organs. These “models” act as chunks of an actual human organ and allow researchers to see what the affects of a drug are on a particular organ, or on a system of organs. While this technology seems to be relevant for drug companies trying to speed development, the grant was actually awarded by the U.S. Defense Department. The idea behind the grant is to find ways to test the potential effects of chemical agents that could be used on soldiers.
The Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine is spearheading the research and director, Tony Atala says this could be the first step in streamlining drug and chemical agent research. Unlike other 3D printed items, the organs are made of organic material and require a type of tiny scaffolding to support the lines of cells as they are layered on one another and begin to take shape.
Even more incredible is that researchers believe they will be able to create a system of miniature organs the size of a chip. This would allow them to not only see how drugs affect one organ, but how they affect a group of organs working in concert.
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