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Special microchip can prevent kidney damage from medication

The device simulates the environment inside the human kidney.

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Doctors have to make sure patients are getting just the right dose of medication, because some drugs (especially those administered to ICU patients) can cause kidney damage. This "kidney on a chip" device developed by a team of University of Michigan researchers could make the process easier. It replicates the environment inside our kidneys and shows how each medicine affects the organ.

Shuichi Takayama, UM professor of biomedical engineering, explains:

"When you administer a drug, its concentration goes up quickly and it's gradually filtered out as it flows through the kidneys. A kidney on a chip enables us to simulate that filtering process, providing a much more accurate way to study how medications behave in the body."

The microchip was made by sandwiching a permeable polyester membrane and a layer of cultured kidney cells between the top and bottom parts of a microfluidic device. Besides helping medical professionals determine the right doses, it can also help them figure out the best way to administer each particular drug. For instance, the team found that an antibiotic called gentamicin is more harmful to the kidneys when delivered as a continuous infusion than as one large dose.

Takayama says the technique could be adapted to study drugs' effects on other organs, including the heart and the liver. And since it's more efficient and accurate than animal testing, it could allow drug manufacturers to release new products more quickly.

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