Researchers at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) have been awarded funding to develop a first-of-its-kind organ-on-a-chip facility for veterinary species. By reflecting animal tissue structures and predicting responses to a wide range of stimuli including to pathogens, vaccines, environmental conditions and cell-to-cell interactions, this technology will help close important knowledge gaps and reduce the number of animals necessary for in-vivo testing.
Organs-on-chips (OoC) are systems containing engineered or natural miniature tissues grown inside microfluidic chips. Developed to better mimic species physiology, than that of traditional 2D cell culturing, the chips can control cell microenvironments and maintain structures and functions for tissues and organs such as the blood-brain barrier, lungs and heart, while being constantly supplied by the necessary nutrients.
Importantly, OoC’s also help bridge the gap between animal and human systems, allowing for drug and vaccine testing and supporting studies into how cells interact with each other and pathogens, without having to use live animal testing.
Funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the RVC’s OoC project will help assess the development of new vaccines and vaccine approaches by better understanding host-pathogen interactions. It will also support the development of regenerative medicine therapies, such as stem cell therapy for tendon, heart and eye conditions, kidney failure and cancers in multi-cell systems.
This project will sit in the RVC’s newly created Centre for Vaccinology and Regenerative Medicine, which was established to play a leading role in the development and translation of vaccines and regenerative medicine approaches for animal and human health.
Dirk Werling, Professor of Molecular Immunology at the RVC, said:
“The organ-on-a-chip is one of the top 10 emerging technologies and we are very proud to be able to establish this technology at the RVC, thus actively contributing to the development of new treatment strategies as well as further reducing the usage of animals for in-vivo testing and therefore contributing to the 3Rs – replacement, reduction and refinement.”
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About the RVC
- The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) is the UK's largest and longest established independent veterinary school and is a Member Institution of the University of London.
- It is one of the few veterinary schools in the world that hold accreditations from the RCVS in the UK (with reciprocal recognition from the AVBC for Australasia, the VCI for Ireland and the SAVC for South Africa), the EAEVE in the EU, and the AVMA in the USA and Canada.
- The RVC is ranked as the top veterinary school in the world in the QS World University Rankings by subject, 2023.
- The RVC offers undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in veterinary medicine, veterinary nursing and biological sciences.
- The RVC is a research led institution with 88% of its research rated as internationally excellent or world class in the Research Excellence Framework 2021.
- The RVC provides animal owners and the veterinary profession with access to expert veterinary care and advice through its teaching hospitals and first opinion practices in London and Hertfordshire.