Organs on Chips
For the first time, bioengineers have created a completely 3D-printed ‘heart on a chip’ capable of collecting data on how strongly the organ is beating. Further development of the organ-on-chip method could also decrease our reliance on testing medical treatments on animals.
Donald Ingber from Wyss Institute developed what is now referred to as an organ on a chip. Donald Ingber developed a lug on a chip, which was the very first of its kind. Since then, other companies have jumped on this opportunity and have created other organs on chips as well, including; lung, liver, kidney, heart, bone marrow and cornea.
Each organ on a chip is roughly the size of a USB memory stick. The organ is made from a flexible, translucent polymer. Microfluidic tubes, which are each less than a millimeter in diameter and line with human cells taken from the organ of interest, run in complex patterns within the chip. When nutrients, blood, and other test compounds such as those experimental drugs are pumped through the tubes, the cells replicate some of the key functions of an actual living organ!
These organ microchips will change the entire way that drugs are created and tested. The use of a micro organ chip will allow doctors and pharmaceutical companies to experiment on these organ chips and make changes before even testing on humans – which would hopefully ensure better accuracy of the drug. This could also reduce, or even eliminate, the use of animals in drug trials. While animal trials are the closest replication we have to actual humans, without using humans, animal models often do not have accurately mimic human pathophysiology. Millions of animals are used each year for drug testing. The use of the organ chip could change all of that.