New study confirms hanging drop microfluidics platform for miniaturized islet perifusion assays enables high-resolution assessment of islet insulin secretion from single human islets over time.

InSphero AG, the pioneer of 3D cell-based assay technology, and the Bio Engineering Laboratory at ETH Zürich today announced that a recent study published in Advanced Biosystems confirms that organ-on-a-chip solutions can be harnessed to advance diabetes drug discovery. Results of this research collaboration between InSphero and microfluidic system engineers at ETH Zürich’s department of Biosystems Science and Engineering demonstrated that using 3D InSight Human Islet Microtissues in a novel microfluidic hanging-drop-based perifusion assay system enables the study of physiologically relevant dynamic insulin secretion with low sample-to-sample variation and at high temporal resolution.

“Glucose-stimulated insulin release from pancreatic beta-cells is a highly dynamic biphasic and pulsatile process, which is disrupted in diabetes patients,” said InSphero Head of Islet Solutions, Burcak Yesildag, PhD. The restoration of either the blunted first phase or lost oscillations of the second phase of insulin secretion have been proposed as potential therapeutic targets for type 2 diabetes. Additionally, dynamic insulin secretion can be modulated with various insulin secretagogues.

Although pancreatic islet perifusion assays have been used for more than 30 years, implementing a reliable, highly reproducible, yet simple method to assess human islet function has remained challenging. “As confirmed in this study, the InSphero 3D InSight Diabetes Discovery Platform is ideal for perifusion studies because our islet microtissue models are not only homogenous in size, cellular composition, and function, but also reflect the physiological response of the human pancreas to stimulation under varying conditions,“ added Yesildag.

“The combination of our miniaturized, open microfluidic chip design with InSphero’s uniform and highly functional human islet microtissues, enables reproducible assessment of dynamic insulin secretion in single human islets. It is an efficient system that facilitates rapid glucose switching, minimal sample dilution, low analyte dispersion, and short sampling intervals,“ said ETH Zürich Postdoctoral Researcher Patrick Misun, PhD, who led the engineering portion of the project.

“InSphero has a rich history of successful collaborations with the ETH Zürich Bio Engineering Laboratory led by Professor Andreas Hierlemann,” said InSphero CEO and Co-founder Jan Lichtenberg, PhD. “This study is another excellent example of the collaborative bioengineering innovation that we do best as we strive to develop 3D in vitro solutions that will help further our understanding of complex diseases, such as diabetes.“

Read the Advanced Biosystems paper: In Vitro Platform for Studying Human Insulin Release Dynamics of Single Pancreatic Islet Microtissues at High Resolution