Biomedicine Update – A Human Body on a Chip

Hot on the heels of billionaire immortality and connectomics comes a new project to develop technology that mimics all of human physiology. The project, the Bio-Mimetics Program, is a combined research study involving MIT, Harvard University, Draper Laboratory, MatTek and Zyoxel. The goal — to develop a technology-based environment that accurately mimics 10 organ systems ranging across the full spectrum of human anatomy and physiology.

Each module will be a single chip no bigger than a memory stick. Each will mimic a major biological system. Plans are to build models for the circulatory, endocrine, gastrointestinal, immune, integumentary, musculoskeletal, nervous, reproductive, respiratory and urinary systems.

The chips (seen in the pictures below) are made from transparent plastic. Each contains micro-channels filled with fluid and lined with living human cell tissues from the appropriate organ system.

The project is U.S. funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  When completed researchers will use the chips to test new pharmaceuticals, stem cell therapies, cancer therapies and other medical technologies with the goal to achieve reductions in animal studies, shorter clinical trials and faster breakthroughs to actual clinical treatment.

The Bio-Mimetics Program will build 10 human organ systems on chips. The two chips displayed here are from top to bottom, Lung-on-a-Chip and Gut-on-a-Chip. Source: Wyss Institute , Harvard University


Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery. More...