Researchers at the University of Göttingen in Germany have developed a cell culture chamber that lets them culture tissue samples, mimic the mechanical conditions that tissues experience in various disease states, and closely monitor tissue reactions. The technology could be particularly useful for pre-clinical drug testing, allowing researchers to test the effects of various drug candidates on tissues without the need to use experimental animals. The chamber includes elastic posts to which muscle fibers can attach and pull against, and permits high-resolution microscopy so that the researchers can appraise how the tissue reacts to various stimuli. The Göttingen team recently received a grant from the European Union to help them to develop the chamber further.
Researchers are working hard to create new in vitro technologies that will streamline and de-risk drug development. At present, the drug development pipeline is fraught with difficulties, expense, and ethical dilemmas, including the use of experimental animals. Reducing the work, time, and expense of bringing new drugs to market could unlock a whole host of much needed new treatments, and advanced in vitro tissue culture systems are well poised to play a big role here.
This latest technology is a cell culture chamber that allows for advanced tissue culture and manipulation, including mimicking the mechanical conditions that tissues experience in various disease states, such as cardiovascular disease. The chamber is a work in progress, and new EU funding is intended to assist the researchers to bring it to fruition, where it will include optical fiber technology to perform motion and force measurements and piezo-based actuators to impart mechanical forces on tissue samples.
“Our new research project sets out to develop a system to enable automated functional screening of the effects of a compound on human tissue,” said Timo Betz, one of the developers of the new device. “It also means that scientists will be able to model different health conditions in the lab to get a better understanding of disease processes and treatments. This could be a game changer for the pharmaceutical industry as well as academic and medical research.”
The mechanical monitoring that the system can perform could be very useful for studying diseases that involve muscle wasting, such as muscular dystrophies, allowing researchers to directly measure the effect of various therapeutic molecules on muscle tissue strength and structure.