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Picture something like a computer chip, but with a transparent circuit board that’s connected to a biological system pumping a blood substitute through tiny blobs of tissue. Organ-on-a-chip systems (OoCs) are synthetic organs made of multichannel, three-dimensional microfluidic cell culture technology that promotes organ functions, processes, and physiological responses. It turns out that these chips are better at predicting real-world responses in humans than the use of conventional lab animals. Researchers in South Korea developed an artificial nervous system that can simulate a conscious response to external stimuli. It includes an artificial neuron circuit, which acts like a brain; a photodiode that converts light into electrical signals; and a transistor that acts as a synapse. All of these components are connected to a robotic hand. More hardware than wetware at the moment, this type of a system could help people with certain neurological conditions regain control of their limbs. It could eventually be worn or even embedded. In 2022, Emulate, a company that makes OoCs, tested 870 human liver-chips across a blinded set of 27 drugs with known toxicity issues—and the chips did a better job of predicting drug safety than the usual methods of studying drug interactions. A team of bioengineers at Harvard University used donated vaginal cells to make a vagina on a chip in late 2022. The chip successfully mimicked the vaginal microbiome and is actually more accurate than other existing models being used in labs. OoC academic research and startups are attractive to both venture funding and foundations, which view the technology as foundational to new drug discovery.This chip-sized device mimics the dynamics of a living organ on the smallest possible scale. More important than a simple issue of economics, the testing of products and pharmaceuticals is ethically problematic considering the animal rights abuses and dangers of using human subjects for testing with unknown consequences. In an attempt to combat these challenges, scientists have developed a chip-sized device that can mimic a living organ and its dynamics on a tiny scale. This device, popularly known as organ-on-a-chip, contains cells layered in the hollow compartments of the chip according to the actual, emulated organ; fluid flow (blood and lymph) is reproduced via channels. It produces normal levels of organ functionality, allowing an analysis of biochemical, genetic, and metabolic activities. Connecting chips could help systematically map the functions and interactions of the whole body while proving that living organs are more predictable than expected, and assist in understanding how diseases develop and progress accordingly. An organ-on-a-chip can enable new, more efficient biomedical research approaches, more reliably producing results when predicting the effects on humans. It has the potential to accelerate research and discoveries in the fields of Biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and chemicals. At the same time, academic institutions and hospitals can also benefit from this technology for the development and testing of personalized medicine. The challenge now, however, is to make this device as accurate as possible in terms of replicating the simulated results in the real world. The large-scale adoption of organs-on-a-chip could reduce the amount of time necessary to develop new drugs. It creates more room for experimenting with innovative formulas while abiding by ethical codes throughout the world. Animal and human testing could become something of the past while maintaining industry efficiency. And, as the technology matures, such chips could be made on a personalized scale. Every single person could have their own set of chips, with each of them representing a particular organ. Enter personalized tests: drugs and cosmetics could be first tested on the chip to check for incompatibilities and potential reactions and only applied directly to the organism following satisfactory results. Unintended consequences, which create health issues and general frustration with personal care products, could be significantly reduced.

Organ-on-a-chip

KEY TRENDS

Human Optimization