The ATHENA project, which is developing a desktop human for for screening both new drugs and toxic agents, has reported success in the development of its ...
A five-year, US$19 million multi-institutional effort is working on developing a "desktop human" that could reduce the need for animal testing in the development of new drugs. The "homo minitus" is a drug and toxicity analysis system that would comprise four human organ constructs interconnected to mimic the response of human organs. The project has now reported success in the development of its first organ construct, a human liver construct that responds to exposure to a toxic chemical much like a real liver.
The miniaturized platform being developed through the Advanced Tissue-engineered Human Ectypal Network Analyzer project (ATHENA) will see each organ component shrunk to the roughly the size of a smartphone screen, with each of the components connected by tubing infrastructure that mimics the way the real organs are connected in the human body by blood vessels. The entire "ATHENA" body would be compact enough to fit on a desk or bench.
"By developing this 'homo minutus,' we are stepping beyond the need for animal or Petri dish testing," says Rashi Iyer, a senior scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), the lead laboratory on the project that is supported by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). "There are huge benefits in developing drug and toxicity analysis systems that can mimic the response of actual human organs."