Living organ-on-a-chip could soon replace animal testing

If a team of Harvard bioengineers has its way, animal testing and experimentation could soon be replaced by organ-on-a-chip technologies. Like SoCs (system-on-a-chip), which shoehorn most of a digital computer into a single chip, an organ-on-a-chip seeks to replicate the functions of a human organ on a computer chip.

In Harvard’s case, its Wyss Institute has now created a living lung-on-a-chip, a heart-on-a-chip, and most recently a gut-on-a-chip.

We’re not talking about silicon chips simulating the functions of various human organs, either. These organs-on-a-chip contain real, living human cells. In the case of the gut-on-a-chip, a single layer of human intestinal cells is coerced into growing on a flexible, porous membrane, which is attached to the clear plastic walls of the chip. By applying a vacuum pump, the membrane stretches and recoils, just like a human gut going through the motions of peristalsis. It is so close to the real thing that the gut-on-a-chip even supports the growth of living microbes on its surface, like a real human intestine.

In another example, the Wyss Institute has built a lung-on-a-chip, which has human lung cells on the top, a membrane in the middle, and blood capillary cells beneath. Air flows over the top, while real human blood flows below. Again, a vacuum pump makes the lung-on-a-chip expand and contract, like a human lung.

These chips are also quite closely tied to the recent emergence of the lab-on-a-chip (LoC), which combines microfluidics (exact control of tiny amounts of fluid) and silicon technology to massively speed up the analysis of biological systems, such as DNA. It is thanks to LoCs that we can sequence entire genomes in just a few hours — a task that previously took weeks or months.

These human organs-on-a-chip can be tested just like a human subject — and the fact that they’re completely transparent is obviously a rather large boon for observation, too. To test a drug, the researchers simply add a solution of the compound to the chip, and see how the intestinal (or heart or lung) cells react. In the case of the lung-on-a-chip, the Wyss team is testing how the lung reacts to possible toxins and pollutants. They can also see how fast drugs (or foods) are absorbed, or test the effects of probiotics.

Perhaps more importantly, these chips could help us better understand and treat diseases. Many human diseases don’t have an animal analog. It’s very hard to find a drug that combats Crohn’s disease when you can’t effectively test out your drug on animals beforehand — a problem that could be easily solved with the gut-on-a-chip. Likewise, it is very common for drugs to pass animal testing, but then fail on humans. Removing animal testing from the equation would save money and time, and also alleviate any ethical concerns.

Moving forward, the Wyss Institute, with funding from DARPA, is currently researching a spleen-on-a-chip. This won’t be used for pharmaceutical purposes, though; instead, DARPA wants to create a “portable spleen” that can be inserted into soldiers to help battle sepsis (an infection of the blood).

And therein lies the crux: If you can create a chip that perfectly mimics the spleen or liver or intestine, then what’s to stop you from inserting those chips into humans and replacing or augmenting your current organs? Instead of getting your breasts enlarged, you might one day have your liver enlarged, to better deal with your alcoholism. Or how we connect all the organ chips together and create a complete human-on-a-chip?

Source www.extremetech.com

 

Find us here

Get news from the CSGLOBE in your inbox each weekday morning

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors/source and do not necessarily reflect the position of CSGLOBE or its staff.

Paid content

Scientists Turn Algae into Usable Fuel

Alternative fuel: Algae could replace petroleum fuels. Scientists Turn Algae into Usable Fuel in Less than an Hour Algae has already been touted as a natural...

The ultimate one-off camper vehicle

It is the ultimate recreational vehicle - and send to make one four year old extremely happy. The KiraVan, a giant custom built off road...

NASA offering $18,000 for human lab rats to stay in bed

Nasa pays $18,000 to allow human lab rats to stay in bed for 70 days and nights NASA will pay $18,000 to anyone prepared to...

What's New Today

Georgia House Votes To Allow Citizens To Abolish Police Departments In The State

The Georgia House backed an effort on Friday to dissolve the Glynn County Police Department and any...

Leaked CDC document contradicts Pence claim that U.S. coronavirus cases ‘have stabilized’

Even as Vice President Mike Pence wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Tuesday that coronavirus...

Five bombshells about Trump from Bolton ‘s book

Excerpts from former national security adviser John Bolton ’s book about his time in the Trump administration...

Don’t Listen to Fox. Here’s What’s Really Going On in Seattle’s Protest Zone.

It seems I live in a city undergoing a “totalitarian takeover” that will lead to “fascist outcomes”...

MOST READ

What Is Agenda 21? Depopulation of 95% of the World By 2030

Most people are unaware that one of the greatest threats to their freedom may be a United Nations program which plans to depopulate 95%...

Bombs Have Been Dropped in Nevada – U.S. is Responsible

Apparently, America is now using Nevada's land to test bombs. With each passing day, the U.S. continues to follow their own personal agenda. A report did reveal...

Oklahoma High Schooler’s Carbon Discovery Elicits Wonder From Experts

Taking teenage rebellion to a new level, Oklahoma high school senior George Wang stunned teachers and fellow students when in April he co-authored a...

Scientists Turn Algae into Usable Fuel

Alternative fuel: Algae could replace petroleum fuels. Scientists Turn Algae into Usable Fuel in Less than an Hour Algae has already been touted as a natural...

1 In 4 Americans Thinks The Sun Goes Around The Earth

A quarter of Americans surveyed could not correctly answer that the Earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around, according to...

Wireless, Chemtrails And You

Next time you’re on a cellphone looking up at those long lingering plumes spreading across the sky, you might decide to end that call....

Can LSD Make Dying Easier?

When you think about LSD you probably picture the 60s and a bus full of hippies, Grateful Dead playing softly, revolutions being planned telepathically....

Researchers confirm: The Largest Pyramid in Mexico has been found

Researchers in Mexico have discovered a Pyramid that, according to initial measurements, is larger than the Great Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan. Initial excavations...

Life after death? Out-of-body evidence grows

Life after death? Scientists gather 'out-of-body' evidence in 'largest-ever' study It seems that scientists have finally offered evidence that consciousness after death really could exist,...

Putin Warns “US Has Pushed Russia Back Into Nuclear Arms Race”

Having unveiled the first images of its new nuclear missile capable of reaching US soil, Russian President Vladimir Putin is warning today that Washington’s actions...

A Nobel Peace Prize Winner Dropped 26,000 Bombs in 2016

According to an estimate conducted by Micah Zenko, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), and national security expert Jennifer Wilson,...