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Project ATHENA creates surrogate human organ systems

The development of miniature surrogate human organs, coupled with highly sensitive mass spectrometry technologies, could one day revolutionize the way new drugs and toxic agents are studied.
June 15, 2015
ATHENA prototype undergoes testing.

ATHENA prototype undergoes testing.

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“By developing this ‘homo minutus,’ we are stepping beyond the need for animal or Petri dish testing: There are huge benefits in developing drug and toxicity analysis systems that can mimic the response of actual human organs,” said Rashi Iyer.

Surrogate human organs could revolutionize the way biologists and medical personnel screen new drugs or toxic agents

LOS ALAMOS, N.M., June 15, 2015—The development of miniature surrogate human organs, coupled with highly sensitive mass spectrometry technologies, could one day revolutionize the way new drugs and toxic agents are studied.

Project ATHENA Creates Surrogate Human Organ Systems
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Project ATHENA creates surrogate human organ systems

“By developing this ‘homo minutus,’ we are stepping beyond the need for animal or Petri dish testing: There are huge benefits in developing drug and toxicity analysis systems that can mimic the response of actual human organs,” said Rashi Iyer, a senior scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

 ATHENA, the Advanced Tissue-engineered Human Ectypal Network Analyzer project team, is nearing the full integration of four human organ constructs — liver, heart, lung and kidney — each organ component is about the size of a smartphone screen, and the whole ATHENA “body” of interconnected organs will fit neatly on a desk.

 A new video available on the Los Alamos National Laboratory YouTube channel updates the ATHENA project as it begins to integrate the various organ systems into a single system.

Some 40 percent of pharmaceuticals fail their clinical trials and there are thousands of chemicals whose effects on humans are simply unknown. Providing a realistic, cost-effective and rapid screening system such as ATHENA with high-throughput capabilities could provide major benefits to the medical field, screening more accurately and offering a greater chance of clinical trial success.

ATHENA is funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) and is a collaboration of Los Alamos National Laboratory, Harvard University, Vanderbilt University, Charité Universitätsmedizin, Berlin, Germany, CFD Research Corporation, and the University of California San Francisco.

About Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory, a multidisciplinary research institution engaged in strategic science on behalf of national security, is operated by Los Alamos National Security, LLC, a team composed of Bechtel National, the University of California, BWXT Government Group, and URS, an AECOM company, for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

Los Alamos enhances national security by ensuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile, developing technologies to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction, and solving problems related to energy, environment, infrastructure, health, and global security concerns.


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