Microfluidic Device Can Show Organ Damage from Medications

A microfluidic device was able to simulate kidney damage from gentamicin.

Researchers in a recent study developed a microchip that can simulate the flow of medication through human kidneys to observe how it effects the organ, which could lead to more precise dosing.

The study, published in Biofabrication, said that safe dosing can be difficult, since animal models are typically used to determine toxicity and safety. These models can also process medication more quickly than humans, which sometimes leads to inaccurate estimates.

Researchers were able to develop a microfluidic chip device to deliver a precise flow of medication across cultured kidney cells, according to the study.

"When you administer a drug, its concentration goes up quickly and it's gradually filtered out as it flows through the kidneys," said researcher Shuichi Takayama, PhD. "A kidney on a chip enables us to simulate that filtering process, providing a much more accurate way to study how medications behave in the body."

Researchers said that the use of the device allows tests to be done in a controlled environment, while also enabling researchers to change the flow to simulate various levels of kidney function.

"Even the same dose of the same drug can have very different effects on the kidneys and other organs, depending on how it's administered," said researcher Sejoong Kim, MD, PhD. "This device provides a uniform, inexpensive way to capture data that more accurately reflects actual human patients."

Researchers studied 2 different dosing regimens for gentamicin, an antibiotic used in intensive care units. They used a microfluidic device that has a permeable polyester membrane and a layer of cultured kidney cells between top and bottom compartments of the device, according to the study.

The gentamicin solution was filtered through the cells and the membrane that simulates the flow of medication through a kidney.

One test had a high concentration of medication and quickly tapered off and was meant to mimic once-daily drugs. The other test was a lower, constant concentration of the drug to mimic a slow infusion of the drug.

Researchers measured kidney damage to the cells in the device and found that the once-daily dose was significantly less harmful than a continuous dose, although both received the same overall amount of medication.

The results of the study could be used to optimize dosing regimens for the antibiotic in the future. Researchers also said that the techniques used could be generalized for a range of organs and medications.

"We were able to get results that better relate to human physiology, at least in terms of dosing effects, than what's currently possible to obtain from common animal tests," Dr Takayama concluded. "The goal for the future is to improve these devices to the point where we're able to see exactly how a medication affects the body from moment to moment, in real time."