Undergoing biopsies, which involves removal of live tissues from the body for diagnostic purposes, is not only expensive but also painful for patients with low pain thresholds. Things are, however, about to change for the better, at least for people with intestine-related ailments.
Medical scientists at Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute in collaboration with Emulate, Inc in Boston have come up with a comprehensive study to build an innovative advanced Intenstine Chip with integrated systems, which can host living human cells in precisely microengineered environments that can more accurately recapitulate human physiology and disease states.
Treatments for intestine-related Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome, among others, most often are painfully invasive, and even the medicines come with negative side-effects. And if the patient's condition is bad, it is impossible to perform multiple diagnostic tests.
Now, doctors have to do just one biopsy and place the tissue sample on Intestine Chip and perform multiple diagnostic tests to pinpoint the infected region, the status of the infection and the effectiveness of medicines over time.
Or, if the patient is too weak for biopsy, doctors can make use of stem cells for testing on the Intestine Chip. For those unaware, stem cells can now be artificially grown and transformed into specialized cell types with characteristics consistent with cells of various tissues such as muscles or nerves or organs.
Previously, stem cells were extracted from bone marrow, blood and adipose tissue (lipid cells), which required extraction by liposuction, or from the umbilical cord saved during the birth.
"We can produce an unlimited number of copies of this tissue and use them to evaluate potential therapies. This is an important advance in personalized medicine." Clive Svendsen, director of the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute and a co-author of the study, said in a statement.
Once convinced with the results, doctors can prescribe the final treatment to the patients.
Besides relieving pain and bringing down treatment costs, this technology will also put an end to cruel animal testing for medicine development, something animal rights campaigners have been demanding for several years.
There is no word on when Intestine Chip will become a reality, but scientists are optimistic of bringing it to the market as early as possible. They are also working to replicate similar technology for the brain and the heart, among other organs.