A multi-organ chip co-culture of neuro spheres and liver equivalents for long-term substance testing

Eva-Maria Materne, Anja Patricia Ramme, Ana Paula Terrasso, Margarida Serra, Paula Marques Alves, Ana Catarina Montes, Dmitry A. Sakharov, Alexander G. Tonevitsky, Roland Lauster, Uwe Marx

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

113 Citations (Scopus)


Current in vitro and animal tests for drug development are failing to emulate the systemic organ complexity of the human body and, therefore, often do not accurately predict drug toxicity, leading to high attrition rates in clinical studies (Paul et al., 2010). The phylogenetic distance between humans and laboratory animals is enormous, this affects the transferability of animal data on the efficacy of neuroprotective drugs. Therefore, many neuroprotective treatments that have shown promise in animals have not been successful when transferred to humans (Dragunow, 2008; Gibbons and agunow, 2010). We present a multi-organ chip capable of maintaining 3D tissues derived from various cell sources in a combined media circuit which bridges the gap in systemic and human tests. A steady state co-culture of human artificial liver microtissues and human neurospheres exposed to fluid flow over two weeks in the multi-organ chip has successfully proven its long-term performance. Daily lactate dehydrogenase activity measurements of the medium and immunofluorescence end-point staining proved the viability of the tissues and the maintenance of differentiated cellular phenotypes. Moreover, the lactate production and glucose consumption values of the tissues cultured indicated that a stable steady-state was achieved after 6 days of co-cultivation. The neurospheres remained differentiated neurons over the two-week cultivation in the multi-organ chip, proven by qPCR and immunofluorescence of the neuronal markers pIII-tubulin and microtubule-associated protein-2. Additionally, a two-week toxicity assay with a repeated substance exposure to the neurotoxic 2,5-hexanedione in two different concentrations induced high apoptosis within the neurospheres and liver microtissues, as shown by a strong increase of lactate dehydrogenase activity in the medium. The principal finding of the exposure of the co-culture to 2,5hexanedione was that not only toxicity profiles of two different doses could be discriminated, but also that the co-cultures were more sensitive to the substance compared to respective single-tissue cultures in the multi-organ-chip. Thus, we provide here a new in vitro tool which might be utilized to predict the safety and efficacy of substances in clinical studies more accurately in the future. (C) 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-46
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Biotechnology
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2015


  • Multi-organ-chip
  • Organoids
  • Tissue engineering
  • In vitro substance testing
  • Liver
  • Neurospheres
  • DRUG


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