Words by Smiley Team
In order to test immune responses in our vaccines and medicines, we need an immune system to test it on. That immune system often takes the form of animals like lab rats and primates – but now, a new immune system chip may remove the need for animal testing entirely.
This chip, being developed by a group at Harvard University, is a microfluidic organ chip that could replace the need for animal test subjects. It’s called the LF (lymphoid follicle) chip, named for its origin in human lymph nodes, utilizing B and T cells.
Like with animal subjects, the goal is to predicate vaccine and medical testing before moving on to human subjects. It’s supposed to be a step up in efficiency in medical testing, providing a human blueprint instead of having to get data from non-human subjects.
“Animals have been the gold-standard research models for developing and testing new vaccines, but their immune systems differ significantly from our own and do not accurately predict how humans will respond to them,” said the first author of the study Girija Goyal, Ph.D., a Senior Staff Scientist at the Wyss Institute.
“Our LF Chip offers a way to model the complex choreography of human immune responses to infection and vaccination, and could significantly speed up the pace and quality of vaccine creation in the future."
The chip itself was a bit of an accident. The team behind the project was researching how B and T cells would react in different areas of the body, like tissues. When they were extracted they began behaving unexpectedly and forming structures. Those structures became the baseline of the study.
“These findings were especially exciting because they confirmed that we had a functional model that could be used to unravel some of the complexities of the human immune system, including its responses to multiple types of pathogens,” said Pranav Prabhala, a Technician at the Wyss Institute and second author of the paper.
The team is currently working on using the chip in pharmaceutical research, collaborating with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The foundation is a nonprofit fighting poverty, disease, and inequity around the world.
"We can’t achieve our goals on our own," says the Foundation." We work together with businesses, government, and nonprofits, and each partner plays a specific role in accelerating progress."
DONATE: You can donate to the New Life Animal Sanctuary, an organization that provides new lives to former lab animals.
SPONSOR A RESIDENT: By sponsoring a resident, you can directly helping New Life Animal Sanctuary provide food, medications, and enrichment to that specific animal.