Capsule less than a mobile phone and the radiating tubes in my hands — neither more nor less than created by the country's first cellular model of human organs in one-millionth of magnitude. In this chip are all kinds of human cells — in every cell of your mini-organ. In one example, liver, other intestine, brain … Bathes them instead of blood culture medium — it provides the life of cells within four weeks. During its movement is responsible for microchannels small control unit, it allows configuration and automatic maintenance of the required parameters of cell culture. In fact, no matter how fantastic it may sound, portable device — a kind of homunculus. And made it to the Scientific and Technical Center "BioKlinikum."b
— Of course, all suspended, — says CEO Dmitry Sakharov Center (pictured), — human organs and tissues are arranged substantially more difficult. Today, however, our design allows you to create, perhaps, their most appropriate cell model.
— The main thing, which created the device?
— Possible applications are very wide. For example, with the use of these cell models can be developed pharmaceuticals, to investigate their effects on the body and more. Before the advent of such devices, these problems were solved only in experiments on laboratory animals. However, the effect and pharmaceutical remedies toxicity in humans and animals may vary. For example, a new drug for the treatment of diabetes mellitus, troglitazone, had to withdraw from the market because of side effects on the cells of the liver (hepatotoxicity), which could not be found in animal studies. This resulted in the deaths of patients from acute liver damage, as well as the development of hepatitis. Needless to say that the company, which put the drug on the market, has suffered significant financial losses.
Meanwhile, as shown collaborative research with our foreign partner — Berlin Technical University, the toxicity of the drug makes it clear in the process of testing our device. This is its uniqueness: it is able to evaluate the effect of drugs on human organs and tissues. And another very important advantage. The development of new drugs for the first time it is possible to significantly reduce the use of laboratory animals. It is a kind of revolution. Last year the Ministry of Health gave permission for 650 clinical trials of new drugs. This means that initially there were about 6.5 million. All these substances must be tested in animals. But the Russian market the drug design is small. In Europe and the U.S., he is more than an order of magnitude. And in order to check the safety of a drug, 5 to 20 thousand laboratory animals. Now, their number will be reduced gradually.
— What prevents speed up this process?
— Should not hurry. It is necessary to conduct additional research to understand the capabilities of the new testing technology, to compare the results of studies on laboratory animals and cell models of human organs. While we can argue that this technology can yield important and more accurate data on the toxicity of drugs in humans. Now we need to prove its effectiveness and usefulness of the drug companies, to present a new technique for testing drugs in the Ministry of Health, to give it the status of a normative document. But today the instrument can be successfully used in the development of new cosmetic products. In the European cosmetic industry animal testing is completely forbidden, and violators of this requirement can not bring their goods to market. Our product allows you to evaluate the safety of cosmetic products for humans, and provide unique information about their effects on skin cells at the molecular level. We are confident that the technology will accelerate the promotion of new products on the market, will make them safer and cheaper.
— How did the idea of creating such devices?
— The pioneers of this research were scientists in Germany and the USA. Initially, cell biologists and geneticists have studied the possibility of testing different substances on monocultures of cells. Over time, it became clear that these studies need to recreate the complex relationships of various organs and systems of the human body, which enters the test substance. It gradually developed its own unique biotechnology "man on a chip." Today this area is booming. Published by the specialized international journal "Lab on a chip" — it concentrated the main results of scientific research. Different countries have conducted large-scale thematic conferences and conventions to which the and our team. Foreign patents protect the design features mikrobioreaktorov and technology co-culturing them in the cells.
— Can I use this device in basic research?
— Certainly. This is another important area of application. And here the capabilities of our device is difficult to overestimate. Realizing that the objectives of research in biology and medicine at the models of tissues and organs may be very different, we offer options to adapt the device to a specific range of problems, develop custom chip design, provide assistance in the preparation protocol of co-culture cells of specific interest to scientists. Actually become participants in such research. As it turned out, our biotechnology has broad capabilities for environmental monitoring, to achieve a variety of cellular models of human diseases, such as cancer. A very important and promising direction — personalized medicine. We believe that the chips can be useful in selecting the most effective combination treatments for the particular patient. It is in these areas overseas are conducted extensive basic research. This breakthrough technology of the future.
— What about today?
— We successfully completed the project "a man on a chip", organized and launched a pilot production unit running at full capacity, as disposable chips, battery life — 2-3 weeks, and need a lot of them. The device has generated interest in Russia and abroad. Its prototypes are already working in the Technical University of Berlin (8 units), Siberian Branch of the Academy of Medical Sciences, Moscow State University on the waiting list.
— To see if this technology, whether it requires special training? And, of course, the high price?
— Our equipment is intended for research institutes and big medical centers. Staff should certainly be prepared, as in the operation of any high-tech device. Price of a prototype of the order of 4 million rubles. This is significantly cheaper than the cost of equivalent foreign equipment. In mass production it will be lowered at least four times.
— However, the last word for the Ministry of Health. What will it be?
— Of course, the problem with the approval of any new items is always there, but we are confident that they can be solved. Recently, our technology was discussed at a government commission, discusses the prospects for the development of biotechnology, and it has received positive feedback. It is supported by the Ministry of Education, part funded research and engineering development unit, where funds were allocated on a competitive basis. Now the device passes the necessary approvals, and then will be transferred to the Ministry of Health. At the same time, our team is actively post-marketing studies for the development of standardized methods of its application in various fields. Thanks to the cooperation with foreign partners have a good chance of a quick start sales on the
— But they have their chips — because they are pioneers …
— Yes, but our design was better than the foreign ones. Only our apparatus allows different variants of flow of the culture medium to the chip, while cultivating the six different types of cells. It defines its versatility and wide range of applications. Over the past two years, we have successfully improved the technology so that the Technical University of Berlin, with whom we have very good relations, recognized the superiority of our device and, as they say, put your samples on the shelf.
— How did you do it?
— Center, there are only about five years, about four years as we started this project. The term is small, but we have a strong team, led by scientific director of corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Alexander Grigoryevich Tonevitsky. The average age of scientists 25 years. Most are graduates of chemical, biological, medical faculties and Bauman. Under one roof, the full cycle of test production from design to the finished instrument. We have a modern block cell research, on the basis of its development of new methods of use of the instrument. We are conducting pilot tests of pharmaceutical remedies and joint experimental research for the benefit of users.
We can only be glad for the SEC "BioKlinikum." He quickly turned into a modern scientific and industrial innovation company known in Russia and abroad. Today, in the center of the team 36 employees, it takes a single three-story building in the industrial park and is equipped with "a brand." Applicants who wish to come here to work, go through a rigorous selection process. Only two requirements: you have to be an expert and be able to cool a full return to work in a team.
Photo by Andrey Moiseev