Project seeks to use patients’ stem cells to pick best treatment

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Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles is working with life sciences firm Emulate to predict the most effective disease treatments based on a patient’s individual genetic makeup.

The project involves placing a patient’s own stem cells in the channels of a specialized chip to grow, then test the cells against a variety of different drugs to see how the cells react, greatly reducing the need to treat patients with multiple drugs in a trial-and-error approach.

The Patient-on-a-Chip program is based on a software and app platform from Emulate. Each chip is about the size of an AA battery and has tiny channels lined with tens of thousands of living human cells that recreate a small functional unit of an organ. Air and fluids—including blood—pass through the chips, creating a home for the cells where they behave as they would in the body.

Using a patient’s own stem cells to create the living environment on the chip is new technology developed by Emulate, in which Cedars-Sinai has taken a minority stock interest.

Investigators at Cedars-Sinai and Emulate have demonstrated that the cells from the lining of a patient’s intestine mirror living tissue when placed in the chip, which could advance the personalized testing of drug treatments.

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“The medical potential of a Patient-on-a-Chip is extraordinary,” says Clive Svendsen, director at the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute. “As examples, scientists could use Organs-on-Chips to create a living model of a patient with Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Crohn’s disease. By flowing drugs through Organ-Chips containing the patient’s own cells and tissue, we could predict which treatment is most beneficial for that patient.”

This means if a patient has Crohn’s disease, a chip could be created from stem cells to emulate the organs to be treated; then, those researching treatment options would just need to wait about 20 days to see if a specific treatment works. If not, tests could continue using different drugs until a satisfactory outcome emerges.

Eventually, the chip program may be able to predict how disease progresses in individuals, enabling creation of a personalized treatment regimen for patients. Clinical trials also could support identifying at-risk populations for adverse drug reactions.

Original research on the project, published in the journal Cellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology, is available here.

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