ECBC developing human-on-a-chip to eliminate animal testing

Scientists at the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center are replicating human organs using a form of in vitro for the development and manufacturing of drugs against chemical warfare agents.

The ECBC's Center Houses is the only laboratory in the nation permitted by the Chemical Weapons Convention to produce and test chemical warfare agents. ECBC scientists have taken their research a step further, in an effort to see how the human body responds to chemical agents. Additionally, the best treatment options for chemical agent exposure will also be developed through the study.

The initiative is part of a five-year project, funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, to use in vitro to replicate the organs and systems of the human body. Researchers found that approximately 90 percent of drugs that are safe for animals are harmful to humans. ECBC scientists hope to develop safe and effective treatments against chemical agents in a shorter time than would be possible using animals in study trials. The research team has already replicated a human heart, liver, lung and circulatory system.

Each organ-on-a-chip is roughly the size of a thumb drive and is composed of bits of human flesh that are connected with tiny channels that replicate the structure and blood vessels of a particular organ.

"The human-on-a-chip promises to accelerate the pace of research and consequently scientific breakthroughs," Russell Dorsey, a member of the research team, said. "For the military, our human-on-a-chip research will save actual warfighters' lives."