September 29, 2017 / All Stories

Science Rocks! Meet Evatar: The Mother of All Research Models

With ovaries, fallopian tubes and a uterus, Evatar mimics what a body does in real life, including responding to hormones and metabolizing drugs.

Science Rocks features AbbVie scientists who share interesting research in their field and why it matters. In this month's feature, Cheri Enders, Ph.D., ARF, senior director of clinical pharmacology and pharmacometrics, AbbVie, shares an article about Evatar, a model of a female reproductive system that simulates a menstrual cycle and pregnancy hormones.

The coolest thing in science I’ve recently read is the application of “organs-on-chips” to the female reproductive system. The model, called Evatar, can replicate a woman’s menstrual cycle by linking five organ chips together -- an ovary, a fallopian tube, a uterus, a cervix and a liver.

This is first I’ve read about multiple organs being connected to form a nearly complete system and it’s worth noting here that the human reproductive system is extremely complex. Multiple hormones fluctuate at different times throughout a menstrual cycle to coordinate the development, maturation and release of an egg. This egg needs to be released at the right time for the uterus to accept it for implantation.

To not only replicate this cycle but to keep the tissues alive for 28 days was no easy task. Researchers are just starting to harness the use of Evatar to better understand and treat reproductive issues, disease states and to predict reproductive toxicity for new treatments.

While organs-on-chips have been around for several years, they are still in their infancy of use with new applications popping up every month. Organs-on-chips allow for a more dynamic, real life environment that includes mechanical forces such as blood or air flow. Blood flow to and from an organ permits a better understanding of how a changing environment impacts the organ, allowing researchers test different hypotheses related to drugs, biomarkers or disease states.

The group at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., named this model Evatar – the word was derived from avatar, which is the digital representation of an individual, combined with the name Eve. These researchers are also working on mimicking the male reproductive tract and it will be exciting to see all of the applications and hopefully new treatments that will come out of this research.

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