...scientists at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University are engineering microchips to do just that - behave like human organs. And they've had some success with what they call the lung-on-a-chip, and they have now designed a human gut-on-a-chip. And they're looking into mimic even more organs with the hope of linking them all together one day and creating a human-on-a-chip.
So exactly - what exactly does a organ-on-a-chip do? How does it work? What can we learn about the human body from these chips? And will this new technology make testing drugs on lab rats obsolete?
I think the important point for the audience is that there's a real major problem right now in the pharmaceutical industry, which is that the animal models really don't work. We know it's an ethical issue and that many animal lives are lost. And they, you know, they work to some degree, but there's still many, many cases, a surprisingly large number of cases where, you know, millions of dollars, hundreds of millions of dollars and years of development have gone through validating in animal models, and then it gets into the clinic and fails. And so the FDA recognizes this as a problem. Pharmaceutical companies recognize it.
Full audio (along with a brief video) here.
I was catching up on last week's Science Friday and heard this story. I was happy that they at least mentioned, even briefly, the ethics of drug testing on animals.