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New Era of Medical Technology: Organs-on-Chips

Imagine a world where advanced medical technology allows scientists to no longer depend on animals for drug testing and where all trials are completed ethically and more cost efficiently. “Organs-on-Chips,” the winner of the 2015 London Design Museum’s Design of the Year Award, recently revealed the possibility of a future without the need for animal testing, through more research and further technological advancement.

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Created and designed by Donald Ingber and Dan Dongeum Huh at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute, “Organs-on-Chips” has been in development for the past seven years as scientists and researchers refine and improve the bio-fabrication technology and stem cells used in the micro device. ”Organs-on-Chips” is exactly what it sounds like – a computer chip designed to behave like various human organs. Described as a chip the size of a computer memory stick, it is lined with living human cells, such as membranes from a human lung and blood capillary cells, that mimic the actual tissue structures, functions and motions of whole organs from liver to lungs and intestines, in the process creating a platform for medical and healthcare research closer to the human body than anything else currently in use.

The microchip allows scientists to recreate human organs, such as a living and breathing lung, to study and test therapies, drugs and bacterial effects.  Scientists can then take individually developed organs and create a network to track and record the effects and progress of certain products and medications. This provides a more comprehensive and less time-consuming method of conducting clinical trials as compared to a petri dish or using animals, changing the way scientists will perform research in the future.

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As of recently, scientists are able to recreate up to 15 different human organs with the chip, although the chip is still in its infancy and requires further refinement.  The “Organs-on-Chips” is now on display and can be seen at the London Design Museum until March 31, 2016.



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