Harvard University Creates Living, Breathing Human Lung-on-a-Chip
(THE SCIENCE COALITION) Researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have created a device that mimics a living, breathing human lung on a microchip. The device, about the size of a rubber eraser, acts much like a lung in a human body and is made using human lung and blood vessel cells. Because the lung device is translucent, it provides a window into the inner-workings of the human lung without having to invade a living body. It has the potential to be a valuable tool for testing the effects of environmental toxins, absorption of aerosolized therapeutics and the safety and efficacy of new drugs. Such a tool may help accelerate pharmaceutical development by reducing the reliance on current models, in which testing a single substance can cost more than $2 million. “The ability of the lung-on-a-chip device to predict absorption of airborne nano-particles and mimic the inflammatory response triggered by microbial pathogens, provides proof-of-principle for the concept that organs-on-chips could replace many animal studies in the future,” says Donald Ingber, senior author on the study and founding director of Harvard’s Wyss Institute.