Regenerative medicine

Find out more about this combination of "regenerative medicine" and "organ-on-a-chip", which promises to reduce the risk of rejection through its personalized approach.

Regenerative medicine: microfluidics to personalize medicine

Regenerative medicine is a therapeutic approach that aims to repair an injury or an organ by replacing the damaged parts with new cellular tissue created for this purpose. It can involve the use of stem cells, growth factors, biomaterials and other technologies to encourage the body’s natural regeneration.

Médecine régénératrice

Despite significant progress over the last 20 years – notably the emergence of 3D bioprinting – regenerative medicine is still struggling with very high production costs. It also depends on the number of organs available for this type of research – which remains low – and on donor-recipient compatibility.

Microfluidics and organ-on-a-chip may offer a way out of these limitations.

Welcome to the world of personalized medicine!

Organs-on-a-chip: the future of regenerative medicine

Countering the rejection problem

The aim of organs-on-a-chip – as the name suggests – is to reproduce an organ and its functions. If the cells at the origin of this reproduction come from a patient, and are to be used in a patient treatment, the risks of rejection and toxicity are reduced, since they will have been tested under “real-life conditions”.

Comfort while waiting for a transplant

Regenerative medicine - Organ floating above a researcher's hands

It’s easy to see how personalized medicine generated by organs-on-a-chip can open up promising avenues for regenerative medicine.

By growing organoids (miniature, simplified versions of an organ) from a patient’s own stem cells, and controlling their manufacture, we hold out the prospect of replacing or supporting a defective organ within the patient’s own body, while awaiting a transplant.

Cell therapy, the process at the heart of regenerative medicine

The basis of cell therapy? Cellular reproduction

In the credit-card-sized microenvironment of the organ-on-a-chip, ideal physiological conditions and cellular interactions are generated to stimulate cell multiplication – in other words, close to those in vivo – until the famous organoid is obtained. This cellular reproduction is therefore the driving force behind cell therapy, a process that involves transplanting healthy stem cells to restore the function of a tissue or organ.

Stem cells in regenerative medicine

Three types of stem cell are currently used in regenerative medicine, and are therefore being considered for further development in microfluidics: embryonic stem cells (ESCs), induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs).

  • ESCs are stem cells located in the inner cell mass of blastocyst-stage embryos. They have the ability to multiply infinitely, but are at high risk of tumor formation when transplanted. Why? Because their pluripotent nature makes them capable of differentiating into any cell in the body, including tumor cells. Apart from the ethical dilemma posed by the use of human embryos, their final scope remains limited.
  • Because of their unlimited reproductive potential, iPSCs also offer an undeniable advantage in regenerative medicine. What’s more, unlike previous products, they are obtained from adult cells.
  • Finally, MSCs are multipotent cells that can differentiate into a limited number of cell types. Easy to collect, they are present throughout the human body (fatty tissue, bone marrow, bone, muscle), and possess anti-inflammatory properties that reduce the risk of graft rejection.

Regenerative medicine and microfluidics: the limits

Although organs-on-a-chip have the undeniable advantage of providing complex 3D structures close to the functionalities of the organs they mimic, their main limitation remains the lack of direct access to the tissues obtained through vascularization. In fact, the organs are constantly supplied and connected to the rest of the human body via a multi-branched vascular system. Ramifications on which depend a number of biological processes that can influence cell behavior…

More generally, organs-on-a-chip still suffer from a lack of fidelity in reproducing the in vivo cellular environment. But at the current rate of progress in the field, research teams are already working to overcome these limitations, so as not to hamper the promises unveiled by the intervention of microfluidics in regenerative medicine.

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