- Case Studies
- the University of Tokyo
the University of Tokyo
Contribution to new drug development by mimicking an in vivo environment
“Project T” introduces the people who are working in association with Takasago Fluidic Systems and the unique projects, daily efforts, results, and difficulties they came across.
In 2018, the Sakai/Nishikawa Laboratory in the University of Tokyo Department of Chemical Engineering Systems faced an issue while developing the Intestinal Micro physiological System (MPS) Device. The purpose of this device was to reproduce the human intestinal environment as a part of a project to imitate the human body promoted by the Japan Agency of Medical Research and Development (AMED). The project faced a hurdle in reproducing the blood flow and peristaltic movements in the intestinal tract necessary to make the plate used for drug discovery experiments on culture iPS cells similar to the human internal environment.
The project aimed to shorten the development time of new drugs and also reduce the associated costs.
Generally, the development of a new drug takes over 10 years and costs anywhere 100 million to a billion US dollars. Sometimes the drugs that have been successful in the experimental environment do not work the same in the human body. Hence, several steps such as cell experiments, animal experiments, and clinical trials are required to prove their efficacy and safety. This project aimed to cut costs and reduce development time by reproducing an environment as close as possible to inside the human body.
Initially the laboratory made various handmade experimental devices and consulted with various pharmaceutical firms but a lack of need to mass produce the device along with the complicated control mechanism dampened the interests of all the firms.
Takasago Fluidic Systems, which specializes in microfluidic controls pertaining to low volume delivery and customized high-mix low volume production, was consulted to solve the problem. Manaho Asahi took up the challenge of designing the device in just his fourth year of joining the firm. Takasago already had its own a perfusion device (a fluid culture device that keeps the culture solution flowing), which made reproducing the blood flow easy, but the problem of reproducing peristalsis remained. The University of Tokyo had requested the slow movement of the culture membrane on the intestinal wall in sync with the heartbeat. Also, the entire device must be of a size that would fit in a ready-made incubator.
Asahi assembling the Intestinal MPS in the laboratory
The idea was to use air to pneumatically move the culture membrane, but Takasago did not have a valve that would operate at the desired speed. Trial and error methodology was adopted and finally, he was able to attain the desired speed by combining a microneedle valve with adjustable flowrate with a metering pump. The Intestinal MPS was successfully completed in January, 2019.
Completed Intestinal MPS
Mr. Inamura, Project Researcher at the Sakai/Nishikawa Laboratory, expressed his gratitude towards Takasago Fluidic Systems for fulfilling such a detailed request. The Intestinal MPS enabled the laboratory to conduct a range of experiments involving machines and living body culture, which had hitherto been impossible. He further noted that adding intestinal bacteria would make it possible to reproduce an environment closer to the human intestine, thereby forming an artificial intestine.
Sakai/Nishikawa Laboratory is currently working on a perfusion culture of hepatocytes (culture in a flowing medium). The plan is to reproduce the circulatory system of the intestine and liver along with the circulation of lymph. Further, they intend to aid the development of new drugs in an environment closer to the human body.
This project is expected to provide a faster and cheaper platform for creation of drugs for incurable diseases. Asahi said of the project, “It gives me immense pleasure to talk about this project as an employee of Takasago Fluidic Systems and I would like to thank Sakai Nishikawa Laboratory for collaborating with us amidst their busy schedule!”
Sakai / Nishikawa Laboratory Team, December 2019