Mimicking the Complexity of the Human Body In Vitro

Dr. Mandy B. Esch
National Institute of Standards & Technology
Monday, October 17
2:00 – 3:00 pm
SEH Lehman Auditorium, B1220



Patients with incurable diseases often participate in clinical trials hoping to benefit from a drug that has cured the disease in animals. But for every fifty animal trials that were successful, there is only one that replicates in humans. In other words, drugs that cure diseases in animals seldom work for human patients. Yet, animals are the best we have for testing, and unless we develop better mimics of the human body, patients will continue to be disappointed.

One new strategy that could help is the use of body-on-a-chip systems. Body-on-a-chip systems replicate a key aspect that is amiss in animals: even though such systems are not real living beings, they can mimic the human metabolism. That means a drug is broken down in the system the way it would be in the human body.

Dr. Esch will review her recent work with body-on-a-chip systems. She will discuss two organ systems that are capable of mimicking the first pass metabolism of drugs and how those systems were used to estimate the effects of nanoparticles on the GI tract and the liver. A recent goal for the development of body-on-a-chip devices has been to make them more widely accessible by making them easier to operate and less expensive to fabricate. To realize this goal, Dr. Esch has been working on several inventions that make the devices modular and integrate passive fluid control.



Mandy B. Esch is a CNST project leader in the energy research group. She received an M.S. in Biology and a Ph.D. in Biotechnology from the Julius Maximilians (Würzburg) University in Germany. During her PhD research she developed paper-microfluidics and microfluidic biosensors for the detection of pathogens that can contaminate drinking water. In 2001, Mandy joined the Cornell Nanoscale Science and Technology Facility as life sciences liaison, where she helped create nanobiotechnology projects. In 2007, she joined the department of Biomedical Engineering at Cornell University as a senior research associate. While there, she developed several patents for multi-organ body-on-a-chip systems. For this work, her team received the 2015 Lush Science Prize. From 2015 to 2016 Mandy spent a year as an assistant professor at Syracuse University at the Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering. She taught nanobiotechnology and built a laboratory for tissues-on-chip research. In 2016 Mandy moved to Maryland, where she joined NIST. Her work at NIST will focus on integrating tissue sensors with tissues-on-a-chip devices.