Rensselaer Research Review Spring 2008
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Biochip Reveals Toxicity of Chemicals and Drugs
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Jonathan S. Dordick
Jonathan S. Dordick
The Howard P. Isermann ’42 Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering
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New biochip technology could eliminate animal testing in the chemicals and cosmetics industries, and drastically curtail its use in the development of new pharmaceuticals, according to new findings from a team of researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the University of California at Berkeley, and Solidus Biosciences Inc. 

The team’s most recent discovery was featured in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The researchers have developed two biochips, the DataChip and previously the MetaChip, that combine to reveal the potential toxicity of chemicals and drug candidates on various organs in the human body, and whether those compounds will become toxic when metabolized in the body, all in one experiment without the use of live animals. 

The Biochips

The team’s most recent achievement outlined in PNAS is the DataChip, a biochip comprising up to 1,080 three-dimensional human cell cultures. The three-dimensional structure is more closely in line with how the cells would be arranged in organs of the human body. The DataChip can provide companies or academic labs with an extremely fast screen of potential toxicity of chemicals and drug candidates on different types of human cells. 

In an earlier paper published in a Jan. 25, 2005, edition of PNAS, the team introduced the MetaChip. The biochip mimics the metabolic reactions of the human liver, where chemicals and drugs are processed in the body.

Depending on the compound, a seemingly benign chemical like acetaminophen can become highly toxic when metabolized by the liver. Because of differences in the type and amount of their drug-metabolizing enzymes, most of which are in the liver, individuals can metabolize a drug or other chemical compound differently. What is harmless to one person may be toxic to another. By arranging the ratio of enzymes on the MetaChip, scientists could develop a personalized chip to determine how toxic a drug might be to different people.

Jonathan S. Dordick photo by RPI/Kris Qua

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“Biochip Reveals Toxicity of Chemicals and Drugs”
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