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    “Kidney-on-a-Chip” to Study Toxicity of Drugs

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    "Kidney-on-a-chip" (Courtesy of Joseph Xu)

    Researchers from the University of Michigan and Seoul National University in South Korea have created a “kidney-on-a-chip” to mimic the flow of medication through human kidneys and measure its effect on kidney cells.

    In the initial study, scientists used a microfluidic chip device that sandwiches a thin, permeable polyester membrane and a layer of cultured kidney cells between top and bottom compartments. They then pumped a solution of the antibiotic gentamicin into the top compartment. It then gradually filtered through the cells and the membrane, simulating the flow of medication through a human kidney. The results suggest that it is best to give high doses of this antibiotic all at once rather than releasing it slowly, at least as far as the health of kidney cells is concerned.

    According to the scientists, this new technique could lead to more precise drug dosage. This can be especially critical in intensive care units, where commonly-used drugs are potentially dangerous to the kidneys. Determining safe dosage is not that easy. Today, animals are widely used to estimate drug toxicity. But oftentimes they mimic human functions poorly.


    About the Author

    Celia Sampol has been a journalist for 15 years. She worked in Brussels and Washington for national medias (Agence France Presse, Liberation). She's now the editor-in-chief of MedicalExpo e-magazine.

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