Bio-inspired micro-devices could potentially replace animal testing and bring new therapies to patients faster and at lower cost in the future
The Design Museum in London has chosen its Best Design of the Year: a chip that replaces animal test subjects with a complex package of human cells. This radical invention has the potential to eliminate animal experimentation, and in effect save millions of species’ lives worldwide.
The lung-on-a-chip, called so because that’s what it actually is, was designed at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. It may look simple, but the chip contains complex human cells arranged similarly to the way a lung works. In fact, it even breathes like a human does!
Scientists at the Wyss explained the far-reaching potential of these chips. For example, they can use the lung-on-a-chip to introduce bacteria to the channels to mimic and infection, or introduce the chemicals one breathes in regularly to mimic air pollution and test its effect on the lungs. Or, they can even test new medications and determine the effects they’ll have on human physiology.
But not only that, the ‘Design of the Year’ can ultimately end the cruel practice of animal testing while offering a more accurate testing method.
“Bio-inspired micro-devices that mimic whole human organs, such as the lung on a chip, could potentially replace animal testing and bring new therapies to patients faster and at lower cost in the future,” the design team explains in their video (below).
The ultimate goal of the Wyss scientists is to build ten different organs and link them to create a whole body (how incredible!).
Below is the video detailing how the chip mimics a human lung:
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