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Picture of the Day

Testing new drugs with 'ALS-on-a-chip'

There is no cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disease that gradually kills off the motor neurons that control muscles and is diagnosed in nearly 6,000 people per year in the United States. In an advance that could help scientists develop and test new drugs, engineers have designed a microfluidic chip in which they produced the first 3D human tissue model of the interface between motor neurons and muscle fibers. The researchers used cells from either healthy subjects or ALS patients to generate the neurons in the model, allowing them to test the effectiveness of potential drugs. The model consists of neurons and muscle fibers that occupy adjacent compartments of a microfluidic chip. Once placed in the compartments, the neurons extend long fibers called neurites, which eventually attach to the muscles, allowing the neurons to control their movement. Shown here: A model of the neuromuscular junction using motor neurons derived from ALS patients. The motor neurons (blue) send fibers called neurites (green) toward the muscle fibers (pink).

Visit Website | Image credit: Tatsuya Osaki/MIT