The U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) is collaborating with renowned researcher Anthony Atala, director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, on a project to help combat the effects of chemical and biological agents.
The project, called Ex Vivo Console of Human Organoids (ECHO), is attempting to model the body’s response to chemical and biological agents to develop potential treatments.
“Our mission is to assess threat agent compounds in a human model, especially as we identify a new threat agent,” said Robert Kristovich, chief of the Molecular Toxicology Branch at ECBC. “This method provides more rapid and more robust results.”
The research teams are developing three-dimensional organ-buds grown in vitro that display realistic micro-anatomy, called organoids, for assessing the toxicity of threat agent compounds. The teams are focusing on four organoids for their projects: liver, heart, vascular and lungs.
If successful, the researchers said the new technology could completely eliminate the use of animal testing in medicine.
“We’re looking at how the organs communicate with each other, how they metabolize and influence each other,” Kristovich said.
Atala’s team at Wake Forest has been experimenting with culturing 3D human tissue on a chip and 3D replacement organs since the early 1990’s. ECHO is one of the first projects to combine several organs in the same device to model the human response to chemical toxins.