The October Hot Topics event on October 23, 2018 was hosted by Drinker Biddle & Reath at their beautiful D.C. office. This month’s discussion topic revolved around the exciting and quickly growing field of tissue chips, which are 3D in vitro models of various human organs that are more accurate and representative of in vivo structures than the typical 2D cell culture systems. These tissue chip models focus on utilizing physiologically relevant cells and tissues along with materials and biomechanical properties to closely mimic human tissue. The invited speakers, Dr. Kristin Bircsak, Senior Scientist at MIMETAS and Dr. Seila Selimovic, Program Director at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) are both experts in the tissue chip field and were able to give both an industry and a government perspective on research and advancements in this field.
The event was kicked off by refreshments and networking, followed by an introduction by Dr. Ann Marie Stanley, Science Adviser, Science, Regulation, and Policy at Drinker Biddle & Reath and Ms. Jillian Brady, Manager, Science, Regulation, and Policy at Drinker Biddle & Reath as well as some remarks by Women In Bio Capital-Region Chapter Chair Dr. Kayla Valdes. Each speaker then gave a talk where they discussed the ultimate goal of reaching a body-on-a-chip model of connected major human organs so that drugs and therapies can be tested on an in vitro system prior to or instead of animal testing. This would not only have the potential to reduce the need for animal testing, but would also help reduce cost of therapeutics and potentially make it more feasible to develop drugs for very rare diseases.
Dr. Bircsak discussed the MIMETAS OrganoPlate system, a novel technology used to model many tissues in the same plate that provides the opportunity for imaging and running various biological tests. She also discussed her own organ-on-a-chip research. Dr. Selimovic discussed some of the goals that funding agencies have for tissue chip systems, such as physiological relevance, genetic diversity, and long viability. She further introduced some exciting new initiatives in the tissue chip field, such as sending disease models to space to see whether they could be helpful in studying space-travel related conditions, such as osteoporosis. Both speakers touched on the current advancements in the field as well as on some of the areas that need further research.
After each of the fascinating talks there were many questions from the audience both from people with scientific and non-scientific backgrounds. Attendees stayed well past the 8 p.m. ending time of the event to continue discussing the talks and networking with other attendees.
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