In 2012, NCATS collaborated with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Food and Drug Administration to lead the development of 3-D platforms engineered to support living human tissues and cells, called tissue chips or organs-on-chips.
Through the Tissue Chip for Drug Screening program, staff awarded 11 two-year projects that supported the development of 3-D cellular microsystems designed to represent a number of human organ systems. NCATS staff also awarded eight two-year projects that explored the use of stem and progenitor cells to differentiate into multiple cell types that represent the cellular architecture within the organ.
Renewable cell sources and bioengineered microsystems that successfully demonstrated physiological function then moved into the second phase (2014–2017). The goal for this phase is to further refine the technology and begin organ chip integration. By combining all major organ systems to form a human body-on-a-chip, NCATS aims to accelerate the translation of basic discoveries into the clinic.