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Microphysiological Systems (MPS)

NICEATM currently uses the following working definition of a microphysiological system (MPS, also often referred to as a “tissue chip” or “organ-on-a-chip”)

an in vitro platform composed of cells; explants derived from tissues/organs; and/or organoid cell formations of human or animal origin in a micro-environment that provides and supports biochemical/electrical/mechanical responses to model a set of specific properties that define organ or tissue function.

MPS provide human cell-based platforms that enable the study both of normal organ function and effects on organ function by toxicants or pathogens. NICEATM works with federal agencies and other stakeholders to evaluate the use of MPS to replace, reduce, or refine animal use in these applications.

Supporting Adoption of MPS for COVID Research

NICEATM and collaborators are organizing a working group, the MPS for COVID Research (MPSCoRe) working group, that will coordinate the use of MPS to reduce animal use in studies of COVID-19 and future emerging infectious diseases. Information about activities of the MPSCoRe working group will be posted on this webpage.

Key publications on the use of various MPS and COVID therapeutics (updated September 2021)

A feature article published online July 28 in Drug Discovery Today reviews MPCSCoRe activities in the context of the broader effort to apply MPS to the development of therapies for COVID-19.

Kleinstreuer N, Holmes A. 2021. Harnessing the power of microphysiological systems for COVID-19 research. Drug Discov Today.

Introduction to the Microphysiological Systems Database: May 2021

This webinar provided an in depth tutorial on how to use the University of Pittsburgh Microphysiological Systems Database to find and share data on COVID-19 projects.

Video time: approximately 1 hr

MPSCoRe Spring Workshop: April 2021

Attendees of this meeting included individuals and organizations that represent MPS stakeholders as well as COVID researchers. Videos of the workshop presentations are posted below.

Session 1: MPS Models for Testing Therapeutics

Video time: approximately 2 hrs 20 minutes – View session agenda and abstracts

Session 2: MPS Models for Understanding Disease Mechanisms

Video time: approximately 2 hrs 25 minutes – View session agenda and abstracts

MPSCoRe Organizational Meeting: January 2021

Among the topics discussed at this meeting were the limitations of animal models for studying COVID-19 and the need for high-quality study data to evaluate MPS technologies for COVID-19 studies. Data compiled will be housed at the University of Pittsburgh Microphysiology Systems Database. NICEATM is providing financial support for development of the database's MPS portal.

Summary of the January 29 meeting presentations

Below is a video of the January 29 meeting (run time approximately 1 hr 30 min). The video includes three presentations:

  • Overview of the Microphysiological Systems COVID Research (MPSCoRe) Group (Nicole Kleinstreuer, NICEATM)
  • Utilizing microphysiological systems in support of the COVID19 pandemic and beyond (Kyle Glover, U.S. Department of Defense)
  • Development of a COVID-19 disease portal in the Microphysiology Systems (MPS) Database to accelerate the development of human MPS for testing prospective therapeutics (Mark Schurdak, University of Pittsburgh)

The open discussions at the end of the meeting are not included in the video. Any mention in the video of government agencies or use of logos is solely associated with individual scientist participation and expressions of interest, and does not represent the official position or involvement of any agency, nor endorsement of any specific activity, platform, or product.

Background on the Working Group

While animal models can be useful in the study of infectious diseases, their susceptibility and manifestation of symptoms can differ substantially from humans. The need for human-based models of COVID-19 infection has resulted in rapid development of MPS of the lungs and other key organ systems affected by COVID-19. Such a rapid response on a global scale risks fragmentation and resource duplication. In turn, this presents significant challenges for model developers, drug/vaccine manufacturers, and regulatory authorities in coordinating efforts and understanding the utility and validity of the new systems.

To support the biosciences research community in overcoming these challenges, the MPSCoRe working group will address the following objectives:

  • Provide a neutral forum to facilitate interaction and engagement between international collaborative research efforts.
  • Raise awareness of COVID-19 MPS technologies and support their application in assessing the safety and efficacy of potential novel therapeutics through building connections between technology developers and end-users.
  • Work with global authorities to understand how MPS models can be considered in a regulatory context.
  • Provide cross-discipline and cross-sector expertise in discussing and characterizing model performance and readiness criteria.
  • Support the assessment of MPS against in vivo preclinical and clinical data.
  • Ensure that the 3Rs opportunities these model platforms offer are recognized.

NICEATM is coordinating the working group in partnership with the UK National Centre for the 3Rs (NC3Rs), the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, the U.S. Army DEVCOM Chemical Biological Center, and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS).  Members include researchers, MPS model developers, therapeutic/vaccine manufacturers, and international regulators. Additional details about the MPSCoRe working group are available on the NC3Rs website.