Can an Organ-on-a-chip 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.
Full story and video at ExtremeTech