Improving healthcare for all

Organs-on-chips, the key to personalized medicine

CNRS, CEA and Inserm are launching a joint six-year program to develop a new generation of organs and organoids on a chip.

Organ-on-a-Chip - OOC - Microdevices that Mimic the Structure and Function of Human Organs for Scientific Research and Drug Development - Conceptual Illustration
29 Apr 2024

Personalizing treatment for each patient, by recreating the diseased organ or tumor from which he or she suffers, is the aim of PEPR, the MED-OOC priority exploratory research program and equipment exploratory research program.

With a budget of 48 million euros, it aims to develop organs-on-a-chip, organoids and explants “made from patient cells to take into account all their particularities and see how each of them reacts to a treatment“, explains Anne-Marie Gué, co-director of PEPR for CNRS, alongside Xavier Gidrol (for CEA) and Jean Rosenbaum (for Inserm). “Eventually, the challenge will be to pre-test the various treatments not on the patient, but on models derived from his tumor, for example, so that the treatment is as effective as possible.”

These miniaturized devices contain three-dimensional cell cultures mimicking the functions of living organs or tissues in a controlled microenvironment.

This solution could fill a major gap. Today, biologists work either from animal models or from simplified synthetic biological models (cells organized in 2D), two alternatives “which do not allow us to account for the physiological functioning of human tissues and organs“, says the scientist, bearing in mind that only 10% of drugs tested on animals work on humans.

PEPR aims to improve patient care, with much more effective therapies. This is the personalized medicine of tomorrow! This unique study program, centered on organs and organoids on a chip, will also enable researchers to understand how organs function in ways that have not yet been elucidated, how pathologies develop, the factors that cause them, and to identify therapeutic targets and the levers to be activated to treat the disease“, says Anne-Marie Gué, PEPR director for the CNRS and CNRS research director at the Systems Analysis and Architecture Laboratory (CNRS).

The PEPR will therefore launch calls for projects to structure and finance research, infrastructure, platforms, meetings and discussions. “We want to federate a community around these highly interdisciplinary issues. We need highly complementary skills,” adds Anne-Marie Gué. So, not only will clinicians be taking part, but also specialists in chip manufacturing, bioengineering, microphysics, adapted materials, measuring instruments and so on. A rich and diverse ecosystem.

Three key areas of research have been identified. The first will target the development of “clinical twins” of patients. The second will focus on making devices more complex (to mimic blood circulation or reconstitute interactions between several organs, for example). The final focus will be to instrument these on-chip models with sensors to measure and monitor the mimicked functions in real time.

Three indications will be prioritized: breast cancer, diabetes and metabolic syndrome (disorders linked, for example, to a diet too rich in sugars and fats, liver failure, obesity, etc.).

Organs and organoids on a chip will house tumors in the case of cancer, pancreatic cells for diabetes and a liver/adipose tissue coupling to target metabolic syndrome.

The program will be supported by a nationwide network of hospitals. For the time being, four French hospitals will be involved: the Institut Curie in Paris, the University Hospital Centers of Grenoble and Toulouse, and the Paul Brousse Hospital of the AP-HP in Villejuif, near Paris. “Anne-Marie Gué hopes that, in the long term, our technologies will be taken up by industrial companies to manufacture and market the chips“. A working group of the Comité Stratégique de la Filière Industries et Technologies de Santé (CSF-ITS) has already begun this process.

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