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Organ-on-a-chip & liver cancer

UK research, using organ-on-a-chip technology, has led to a better understanding of how human cells behave in liver cancer patients.

Therapies that make use of the immune system (immunotherapies) now are being used to target cancer cells in specific organs, unlike chemotherapy where the whole body is targeted. Nevertheless, it is still difficult for these therapies to effectively reach specific tumours through the bloodstream, such as with liver cancer.

The organ-on-a-chip technology aims to overcome these obstacles by mimicking what happens in an organ and its direct environment.

In research at the University of Birmingham, an organ-on-a-chip replicated the blood vessels in the human liver, allowing scientists to understand how immune cells reach liver cells.

This method should allow partial replacement of animals in immunotherapy studies for liver cancer, usually performed in mice.

Shishir Shetty, lead researcher at the University of Birmingham, said: " Our initial results are promising, showing that we can closely mimic the liver's environment and track the behaviour of immune cells in real-time."

The research – published in Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology – could also be expanded to study other organ systems.

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