In great news for mice and for men, Harvard researchers have created a new microchip that can imitate a human lung, and could eventually lead to drug testing that does not involve animals.
A team of scientists, led by Dongeun Huh, a fellow at Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, developed a clear microchip about the size of a quarter that is covered in human cells. Those cells mimic the breathing motion of a human lung when connected to a pump. Most recently, Huh and his colleagues were able to re-create the lung disease pulmonary edema using the chip, as they reported in their article published recently in Science Translational Medicine.
The simplified lung is part of the growing organ-on-a-chip field, which researchers hope will provide a more accurate testing ground for pharmaceuticals than rodents or petri dishes. In addition to lungs, researchers are working on developing simplified versions of hearts, livers and other organs.