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“Body On A Chip” Could Make Drug Testing Easier

A team of researchers is working on 3D-printing different organ cells, connecting them with a tiny circulatory system, and putting the whole thing on a two-inch chip, creating a “test subject” that’s steps up from animals or single-organ cell groups.

What’s the Latest Development?

A $24 million project led by the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine has as its goal the creation of miniature human organs — more specifically, organ cells built using 3D bioprinting — connected to each other with an artificial circulatory system and placed on a two-inch chip with monitoring sensors. The hearts, livers, and kidneys aren’t fully functional, but putting them together in a way that simulates how real organs work will enable researchers to see what can happen to a human body when certain drugs or other substances are introduced. The sensors record temperature, pH, and other types of data.

What’s the Big Idea?

The funding for this project comes from the US Department of Defense, which hopes to create a test platform that will let scientists and others know more quickly how the human body reacts in case of a biological or chemical attack. An added benefit is that the platform could enable researchers to “bypass cell testing and animal testing” and save millions of dollars in drug trials. Says Wake Forest director Tony Atala: “We will know not just how a drug affects one organ, but how a drug affects major body systems together in a chip.”

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