Organ-on-chip (OoC) systems are in vitro microfluidic models that mimic the microstructures, functions and physiochemical environments of whole living organs more accurately than two-dimensional models. While still in their infancy, OoCs are expected to bring ground-breaking benefits to a myriad of applications, enabling more human-relevant candidate drug efficacy and toxicity studies, and providing greater insights into mechanisms of human disease. Here, we explore a selection of applications of OoC systems. The future directions and scope of implementing OoCs across the drug discovery process are also discussed.
Chronic inflammation in the lung has long been linked to the pathogenesis of asthma. Central to this airway inflammation is a T-cell response to allergens, with Th2 cytokines driving the differentiation, survival and function of the major inflammatory cells involved in the allergic cascade. PI3Kδ (phosphoinositide 3-kinase δ) is a lipid kinase, expressed predominantly in leucocytes, where it plays a critical role in immune receptor signalling. A selective PI3Kδ inhibitor is predicted to block T-cell activation in the lung, reducing the production of pro-inflammatory Th2 cytokines. PI3Kδ is also involved in B-cell and mast cell activation. Therefore the inhibition of PI3Kδ should dampen down the inflammatory cascade involved in the asthmatic response through a wide breadth of pharmacology. Current anti-inflammatory therapies, which are based on corticosteroids, are effective in controlling inflammation in mild asthmatics, but moderate/severe asthmatic patients remain poorly controlled, experiencing recurrent exacerbations. Corticosteroids have no effect on mast cell degranulation and do not act directly on B-cells, so, overall, a PI3Kδ inhibitor has the potential to deliver improvements in onset of action, efficacy and reduced exacerbations in moderate/severe asthmatics. Additionally, PI3Kδ inhibition is expected to block effects of Th17 cells, which are increasingly implicated in steroid-insensitive asthma.