The ability to test new drugs and the affect they might have on the human body using a silicon chip may soon be a reality.
A startup out of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, Emulate, has unveiled what they are calling their human 'Organs-on-Chips' technology. Researchers are referring to the tech as a cell culture device that is approximately the size of a computer USB stick. This device, they explain, contains several hollow channels lined with living cells and tissues that mimic organ-level physiology.
"This is a big win towards achieving our Institute's mission of transforming medicine and the environment by developing breakthrough technologies and facilitating their translation from the benchtop to the marketplace," explained Wyss Institute Founding Director Don Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., and leader of the Organs-on-Chips research.
The device is specifically designed to provide scientists, doctors and researchers with the ability to pre-test whether a specific drug is effective or harmful to humans before approving the drug for that use.
"We took a game-changing advance in microengineering made in our academic lab, and in just a handful of years, turned it into a technology that is now poised to have a major impact on society. The Wyss Institute is the only place this could happen," Ingber added.
Since 2010 Ingber and his team have been busy developing more than 10 different Organs-on-Chip models, including chips that mimic kidney, gut, liver, lung and bone marrow.
The Organs-on-Chips tech has been transitioned to startup status having recently gone through what the Wyss faculty refers to as their "de-risking" efforts, whereby their research efforts are tested both technically and commercially to increase their likelihood for commercial success.
According to a released statement Wyss researchers explain that, "Through numerous collaborations with industry, the Wyss Institute team refined their technology, and validated it for market need and impact by testing existing drugs and modeling various human diseases on-chip. And with an eye towards creating a technology that can be mass-manufactured cost effectively outside the lab, they formed industrial partnerships to achieve this goal and increase the likelihood of success in the marketplace."
The Organs-on-Chips theory is not the sole property of the Wyss Institute as they are merely one of many academic centers around the world working on this concept of using machines to simulate the functions of living organs, a process known as bioemulation.