Scientists are developing a microchip version of the human body. The final device, won't look like a person, but will be able to host real human cells and have the same basic functions as 10 major human organs. That's impressive.
The makers of the device hope that it will be able to become a high tech testing ground for new drugs, thus replacing lab animals in studies. The researchers at Harvard University's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have already re-created the functions of a few human organs on a fingertip size chip devices. They include a lung on a chip, and a gut-on-a-chip.
Now they're going further, by announcing that the project is set to develop 10 such chips which will wire them together so they can interact in one complex system. Are humans that easy to build?
Like a computer microchip which holds an electric circuit, biological microchips could hold circuits to hollow channels that carry liquids. The chip's channels are lined with human cells and are designed to mimic an organ in miniature size. For example, the gut on a chip are lined with human intestinal cells and seeded with beneficial bacterial that live inside people's intestines, according to the Wyss Institute. Each chip is made of transparent, flexible plastic so scientists can observe what’s happening inside.
If they are successful, it could prove to be a better testing ground for new drugs, thus skipping the animal stage of it all. The National Institutes of Health think the device may be a faster, cheaper way of testing drugs, agency officials said in a statement.