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Reverse engineering human biology with organs-on-chips

“Organs-on-Chips,” added last May to the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and winner of the 2015 Design Award from the London Design Museum, have kept their “classical” design over the years, but have grown in complexity thanks to recent advances. The family of chips, which are microfluidic devices containing hollow channels lined by living human cells, now includes everything from a lung-on-a-chip to an intestine-on-a-chip to a blood-brain-barrier-on-a-chip. Each device essentially reconstitutes a functional interface between two living human tissues, with one being lined by blood vessel cells containing flowing fluids with life-sustaining nutrients, while the whole device mimics the physical environment (breathing motions in the lung, peristalsis in the gut) of living organs within the human body.

This photo shows organs-on-chips, crystal clear, flexible polymers about the size of a computer memory stick that contain hollow channels fabricated using computer microchip manufacturing techniques. These channels are lined by living cells and tissues that mimic organ-level physiology.
Credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University