In order for a new drug to gain approval, one must not only demonstrate its effectiveness but also ensure that it does not present any serious side effects. All of these tests are normally performed through animal trials, something that the young Argentinian Solange Massa is trying to minimize. To this end, Massa has developed a chip that replicates the inner workings of a human liver and allows toxicity tests for new drugs to be carried out more quickly and effectively. The idea has led to Massa´s inclusion in MIT Technology Review, Spanish Edition´s Innovators Under 35 Argentina and Uruguay 2016 awards.
"In order to determine the toxicity [of a new drug], today in vitro cell cultures and animal trials are used, and the results cannot even be directly extrapolated to humans," the young, Argentinian scientist explains. The cell cultures are two dimensional, while the organs they are meant to represent are complex, three dimensional structures, and it has been demonstrated that cells behave differently in each scenario. In addition, using animal organs as substitutes for human organs does not allow for the prediction of 100% of the reactions which a substance may cause in the latter scenario.
Thanks to the 3D printing of biocompatible materials, Massa has developed a structure for cultivating human liver cells which react similarly to how they would within a real, human liver. This "liver on a chip" is topped off with the use of microfluidic biosensors "capable of measuring diverse, vital parameters of these cells in real time," Massa adds.
This development forms part of the work carried out by the young scientist during the time spent in the global edition of Innovators Under 35 2007 award winner Ali Khademhosseini´s lab at the Harvard-MIT Program of Health Sciences and Technology in the United States as part of her doctorate in biomedicine from the University of the Andes (Chile).
Currently, Massa forms part of the global solutions program at Singularity University (United States) and is founding a biomedical start-up centered on personalized genotyping. "The main objective is to obtain sufficient genetic data from Latin populations [through diagnostic services for genetic diseases] which will serve to inform the development of specific drugs to be tested using the 'liver on a chip'," she explains.
In the words of the partner and senior advisor in Finance and Strategy and angel investor at Calligram and jury member for the Innovators Under 35 Argentina and Uruguay 2016 awards, Paloma Cabello, Solange Massa is "an excellent innovator, both due to her accomplishments to date and her future potential."
Discover all of the winning projects from Innovators Under 35 Argentina and Uruguay 2016.