WINSTON-SALEM, NC, MONDAY, JUNE 27, 2022 — A $36 million award from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), a division of the Department of Defense, enables the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) to a research and development program to study the ways in which a virus will enter and infect humans.
An official launch event was held today, attended by DTRA scientists and representatives, members of the WFIRM research team, elected officials and others from community and business groups.
Called Pathogenesis and Toxicity Forecasting Using Multi-Organoid Systems or PATMOS, the program uses WFIRM’s Body-on-a-Chip platform to investigate the biochemical changes that occur in viral infections. The platform consists of an advanced 3D model of human tissues or organs that provides a more realistic model than standard two-dimensional cultures. Combining the biological data generated from Body-on-a-Chip with the computing power of machine learning and artificial intelligence should create a powerful tool that will find relationships between infection and human biology that have not been identified.
The PATMOS program will infect the 3D organs, or organoids, with various viruses and analyze what happens during an infection. Biochemical changes taking place at the molecular and cellular level will be monitored and the data fed into the artificial intelligence that will learn the complicated interplay of these subtle changes.
“The Body-on-a-Chip is an ideal platform for exploring the ways in which a virus can infect specific human organs and tissues,” said WFIRM Director Anthony Atala, MD. “This proof-of-concept research program provides a valuable tool for developing a predictive algorithm to respond more quickly to any type of viral threat.”
Atala added that the research will lay the groundwork for the development of medical countermeasures, biomarkers for infection and diagnostics.
“This work will provide valuable information that can lead to the identification of new ways to combat viral threats and provide significant benefit to our service personnel,” said WFIRM researcher and team member Patrick McNutt, PhD. “In a human, these subtle changes would take place days before the person starts to feel sick.”
Additional WFIRM team members include: Colin Bishop, Metin Gurcan, John Jackson, Alan Jacobson, Frank Marini, Sean Murphy, David Ornelles, Graca Almeida Porada, Chris Porada, Michael Seeds, Thomas Shupe, Shay Soker and James Yoo. Technical support by Kelly Burkett, Linda Mason and Lynn Stedman.
Subject of research
Laboratory-produced tissue samples
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