A large percentage of drug candidates fail at the clinical trial stage due to a lack of efficacy and unacceptable toxicity, primarily because the in vitro cell culture models and in vivo animal models commonly used in preclinical studies provide limited information about how a drug will affect human physiology. The need for more physiologically relevant in vitro systems for preclinical efficacy and toxicity testing has led to a major effort to develop “Microphysiological Systems (MPS)”, aka tissue chips (TC), based on engineered human tissue constructs. The MPS development process requires an initial assessment of viability and functionality, followed by an examination of the MPS response to various stimuli, including drugs, environmental toxins, and disease-related cues. These extensive development efforts take place mainly in the developer’s lab, and the reproducibility of the MPS results are rarely assessed by an independent research group or transferred to industry partners for use in drug development.
Although there is a need for more physiologically-relevant preclinical testing technologies, the transition of MPS technologies from academia to industry remains challenging. Successful transfer and deployment of MPS technologies requires quantitative characterization and validation of the systems, preferably by an independent and unbiased external testing facility. Translational Center of Tissue Chip Technologies (TC2T) has been established to bridge between academic research and development and industrial application of MPS technologies via providing unbiased testing and validation of MPS technologies.
TC2T takes a holistic and mechanistic approach—based on quantitative systems pharmacology (QSP)—that combines quantitative experimental biology, computational biology, and biostatistics to achieve unbiased characterization of these complex systems and translation of experimental insights to clinical outcomes. Our translational systems pharmacology team at MIT includes tissue engineers, experimentalists, and computational biologists and serves as the core of the testing center to identify adverse effects of pharmaceutical compounds and environmental toxin on human organs.
Importantly, researchers concerned about environmental exposures are faced with many of the same challenges as those in drug development. They need to know what is toxic and what is not so that decisions can be made about protection and remediation. The resources being developed by TC2T can ultimately be used for critical problems in environmental health.
For more information on TC2T please visit their website.
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Experts predict potentially dire health effects from climate change and say that negative effects are already occurring. But health systems and health professionals can play a key role in protecting the public, according to experts from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
In an opinion article published March 1, 2017, in the New England Journal of Medicine, David Hunter, Vincent L. Gregory Professor in Cancer Prevention, Ashish Jha, K.T. Li Professor of International Health and director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, and Howard Frumkin of the University of Washington outlined some of the worrisome scenarios posed by climate change—more heat waves, higher ozone levels, larger and longer forest fires, more severe storms, upticks in vector-borne diseases, and food shortages—all of which could lead to severe health impacts.
Health care systems can help by anticipating and preparing for climate-related health threats and by reducing their own greenhouse-gas emissions, the authors wrote.
Health professionals—trusted communicators about health risks and their management—can help, too. They can explain the risks of climate change to their patients and the public, as well as the benefits of trying to mitigate and adapt to it.
“As opinion leaders, we can remind our communities that climate change is verified by strong science, is already harming health, and is solvable if we act soon,” the authors wrote. “And we can emphasize the good news that tackling climate change will benefit not only the health of the planet but also the health of its peoples.”
Read the New England Journal of Medicine article: Preventive Medicine for the Planet and Its Peoples.
We are delighted to report that the Poster Session was a great success with excellent attendance and exciting science and engineering.
The winners this year are:
Graduate Student Category:
- First Place: Jonathan Franklin (Kroll Lab)
- Second Place: Le “Lizzie” Ngo (Engelward Lab)
- Tied for Third Place: Jules Stephan (Nolan Lab) and Daniel Rothenberg (White Lab)
Postdoctoral Scholar Category:
- First Place: Supawadee “Apple” Chawanthayatham (Essigmann Lab)
- Second Place: Yehuda Brody (Blainey Lab)
- Tied for Third Place: Victor Hernandez-Gordillo (Griffith Lab) and Annelien Zweemer (Lauffenburger Lab)
If you were unable to attend this year, please be sure to join us next year! The poster session was made possible by support from the Center for Environmental Health Sciences, the Department of Biological Engineering, and the Myriam Marcelle Znaty Memorial Research Fund.