Butterfly Wings Inspire Heart Drug Testing Platform

Scientists in Japan have applied the principles of structural color to a device that could be used to test the effect of drugs on heart cells.

AsianScientist (Nov. 20, 2017) – A group of researchers in Japan have produced a butterfly wing-inspired structural color device for measuring the beating of heart cells, which they hope will help speed up the process of pharmaceutical testing. Their findings are published in RSC Advances.

In the 17th Century two giants of science, Isaac Newton and Robert Hooke, were both trying to understand how the wings of butterflies and peacocks, which are made of the same material as our fingernails and hair, could produce colors of such brilliant quality. They both came to the same conclusion—the color was a result of tiny structures on the wing.

Science and technology have progressed far in those 300 years, and not only can we easily observe the structure of a butterfly’s wing that produces such brilliant color, but we can readily create them ourselves.

Inspired by this kind of structural color, researchers at Kyoto University’s Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Science (iCeMS), led by Professor Easan Sivaniah, in collaboration with researchers from Semmelweis University and Kyoto University Medical School, have created a device based on structural color principles. Like the wing of a butterfly, this device produces structural color from micro-patterns developed on the surface of a polymer gel.

The researchers then grew heart cells on this polymer gel and observed that the beating action of the heart cells caused the structural color to change. The color changes could be detected easily with low power microscopes.

The researchers were able to demonstrate the practical utility of their new device by monitoring the beating pattern of heart cells in response to drugs. They were able to record the beating pattern of the entire cell culture simultaneously by observing the cells under low magnification.

During pharmaceutical development, screening of drugs with different cell types is essential to weed out potentially dangerous drugs before they are tested on humans. During this early stage high-throughput methods are important to save time and cost. The device developed in this study allows the beating of cells to be measured easily in a non-invasive way, thus facilitating high throughput testing.

“Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death around the world. Finding easy and early ways to screen the good drugs for heart patients is vital,” said Associate Professor Andrew Gibbons of Kyoto University who was a coauthor of the study.

“This was a very unique and exciting project for us, there are not many places that can easily facilitate this kind of multi-disciplinary research,” said Sivaniah.

The article can be found at: Gibbons et al. (2017) Real-time Visualization of Cardiac Cell Beating Behavior on Polymer Diffraction Gratings.


Source: Kyoto University; Photo: Pixabay.
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