Cutting edge research being done locally

Updated: 06/27/2014 7:17 PM
Created: 06/27/2014 6:29 PM WNYT.com
By: Elaine Houston

Computer chips may not look like anything special, but Jonathan Dordick, an RPI professor and researcher is part of a team combining technology and science and changing the way drugs are tested. 

Recently he co-designed a chip that mimics the function of the human liver.

“A large number of drugs work actually work well, but in many cases, they work well for only a small subset – or maybe in some cases a larger subset of the population,” said Dordick.

However, some people do not respond well to certain drugs. A drug candidate may not work at all for them or they may have a negative reaction to it and it is in the liver where that reaction takes place.

“When you take an antihistamine for example, it’s actually not active until a liver turns it into an active compound. In some cases, it turns it into a compound, a metabolite that can be toxic. It’s often that toxicity that’s unclear until you go way down the drug discovery pathway,” said Dordick.

That’s where his computer chip comes in it took Dordick and a colleague from the University of California 10 years to develop--human cadaver organs and mice have routinely been used for research.

Dordick says the chip which responds like the liver can catch the effects of drugs-- early on.

“We wanted to avoid anything that makes it to one patient that could potentially be harmful and at the same time avoid any bad molecules very early that simply to have a failure,” said Dordick.

The two professors have created a company and are now in discussions with drug manufacturers to sell the chip.

By marrying science and technology, this breakthrough research is being conducted right here at RPI. Dordick says they’re finding it has other applications -- including usage in cosmetics testing.

“One of the earliest ones we did was cosmetics, because in Europe, Europeans have come out with a regulation that now eliminates the use of animals in cosmetics testing,” said Dordick.


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