Bone Marrow-On-A-Chip: New Method to Evaluate Toxicity

Bioengineers at Harvard have devised a chip with bone marrow to test chemotherapy and radiation-associated toxicity, bypassing the need to use animal models.

The latest organ-on-a-chip from Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering reproduces the structure, functions and cellular make-up of bone marrow, a complex tissue that until now could only be studied intact in living animals, Institute researchers report in the May 4, 2014 online issue of

. The device, dubbed "bone marrow-on-a-chip," gives scientists a much-needed new tool to test the effects of new drugs and toxic agents on whole bone marrow.

Nature Methods

Specifically, the device could be used to develop safe and effective strategies to prevent or treat radiation's lethal effects on bone marrow without resorting to animal testing, a challenge that is being pursued at the Institute with funding support from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). In an initial test, the engineered bone marrow, like human marrow, withered in response to radiation unless a drug known to prevent radiation poisoning was present.

The bone marrow-on-a-chip could also be used in the future to maintain a cancer patient's own marrow temporarily while he or she underwent marrow-damaging treatments such as radiation therapy or high-dose chemotherapy.

Read the complete report here:

Source: ScienceDaily