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Researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University have shown that their “lung-on-a-chip” technology can mimic a life-threatening lung condition. They also report that scientists can uncover new aspects of the disease using the lung chip that would not be found with animal experiments.
The study, published in today’s Science Translational Medicine, is the first definitive demonstration that the institute’s organ-mimicking chips, which include a gut, a heart, and a kidney (see “Building an Organ on a Chip”), can be used to model a disease and even test candidate drugs.
The lung-on-a-chip device is a clear, flexible thumb-sized block of polymer perforated by two tiny channels separated by a thin membrane. Air flows through one channel, which is lined with human lung cells; a nutrient-rich liquid that acts as a blood substitute flows through the other, which is lined with blood-vessel cells. A vacuum applied to chip moves the channels to re-create the way human lung tissues physically expand and contract when breathing.
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