Tissue Chip Initiatives & Projects

NCATS, in collaboration with other NIH Institutes and Centers and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is leading the Tissue Chip for Drug Screening program to develop human tissue chips that accurately model the structure and function of human organs — such as the lungs, liver and heart — to help predict drug safety in humans more rapidly and effectively. During the program’s inception, it has focused on developing physiologically relevant models for toxicity testing. The current focus of the program is on disease modeling and efficacy testing.

A lung-on-a-chip

This lung-on-a-chip serves as an accurate model of human lungs to test for drug safety and efficacy. (Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard University Photo)

Tissue Chip Development

The first two-year funding phase of the Tissue Chip for Drug Screening program (2012-2014) supported the development of 3-D cellular microsystems designed to represent a number of human organ systems. Renewable cell sources and bioengineered microsystems that successfully demonstrated physiological function moved into the next three-year phase (2015-2017) to further refine the technology and begin organ chip integration, with the first five years of the program drawing to a close in July 2017. Projects that explored the use of stem and progenitor cells to differentiate into multiple cell types that represent the cellular architecture within the organ were also awarded through this initiative. Learn more about Tissue Chip Development.

Tissue Chip Testing Centers

Tissue Chip Testing Centers are based at independent institutions and provide a way to test and validate tissue chip platforms developed through the program. These efforts will help to validate tissue chip technology and promote the adoption of this technology by the broader research community. Learn more about Tissue Chip Testing Centers.

Tissue Chips in Space

NCATS is partnering with the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory (ISS National Lab) on its Tissue Chips in Space initiative. Through this initiative, NCATS and the ISS National Lab are collaborating to refine tissue- and organ-on-chip platforms for on-flight experiments at the space station so that scientists can better understand diseases and translate those findings to improve human health on Earth. Learn more about Tissue Chips in Space.

Tissue Chips for Disease Modeling and Efficacy Testing

The Tissue Chips for Disease Modeling initiative supports further development of tissue chip models of human disease that mimic the pathology in major human organs and tissues. The goals are to (1) support studies to develop in vitro disease models using primary tissue or induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived patient cell sources on tissue/organ-on-chip platforms, (2) determine disease relevance of these models by preliminary testing of key experimental features and (3) test the effectiveness of candidate drugs. Learn more about Tissue Chips for Disease Modeling and Efficacy Testing.

Tissue Chips for Pain, Opioid Addiction and Overdose (NIH HEAL Initiative project)

With funding from the Helping to End Addiction Long-termSM Initiative, or NIH HEAL InitiativeSM, NCATS awarded five grants for research teams to create and test tissue chips to understand the mechanisms or effects of nociception (the sensory system’s response to harmful stimuli, including pain-relevant signaling), addiction and opioid use disorder. Learn more about tissue chips for pain, opioid addiction and overdose and view the awards.

Tissue Chips for Modeling the Immune System

Gaining a better understanding of the immune system and its interactions with other physiological systems is a critical research need. To address this need, the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering and NCATS funded four research projects focused on developing tissue chips that model components of the human immune system. Learn more about tissue chips for modeling the immune system and view the awards.