Two recent studies have shown progress in the search for non-animal alternatives to research into blood clotting and the heart.
In what is described as a ‘world first’, a team at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), Germany, has grown a mini-heart organoid in the lab using human stem cells. The organoid contained both cells from the heart muscle and outer wall (epicardium) and could be electrically stimulated to mimic pumping.
The organoid heart may be useful for understanding how fetus hearts are able to repair themselves in the womb, and be applied to study heart conditions from individual patients by using their stem cells to grow the organoid.
Prof Alessandra Moretti at TUM said: ‘It is conceivable that such tests could reduce the need for animal experiments when developing drugs.’
Meanwhile, a study at the University of Birmingham, UK, has developed a ‘vein-on-chip’ device that mimics a human vein and could be used to study blood clots in conditions like deep vein thrombosis.
The device contains structures that are similar to valves to control the direction of blood flow, which makes it ‘a realistic alternative to using animal models’, said Dr Alexander Brill, at Birmingham.