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Disease modeling, drug testing for ALS
November 2018
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CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—Scientists at MIT have harnessed microfluidic chip technology to create a 3-D model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) on a chip that accurately models the interaction of motor neurons and muscle fibers. Neurons were generated from either healthy subjects or ALS patients. The neurons are photosensitive, enabling the engineers to control them with light, and the muscle fibers are anchored on flexible pillars so that muscle contraction can be measured by the displacement of the pillars. The team has tested two drugs with this model—rapamycin and bosutinib, both of which are in clinical trials as ALS treatments—and found the combination restored the majority of muscle strength lost and reduced the rate of cell death in the ALS unit. The researchers plan to scale up the technology and conduct larger-scale drug studies.

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