This is science at its best!

Source: Wikimedia/ National Cancer Institute

Normal cells of human connective tissue in culture. Source: Wikimedia/ National Cancer Institute

“The next technology wave: Biologically inspired engineering” – What an inspiring talk! Dr Donald Ingber, Founding Director of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, delivered the 2014 Graeme Clark Oration tonight in front of a packed audience at the Melbourne Convention Centre.

Dr Ingber ‘s presentation focused on the work of the Wyss Institute, in particular organs-on-chips.

These are microfluidic devices fabricated using microchip manufacturing techniques that contain hollow chambers lined by living human cells which recapitulate organ-level structure and functions.

The current drug development is broken, he said, it is expensive and it fails so often.

The organs-on-chips can be used to provide human models, and to test drug toxicity and efficacy. They can replace the current animal models that fail more often than not.

Dr Ingber spoke about – and complemented his talk with amazing video clips – various organs-on-chips that have already been developed, bio-inspired robotics and programmable nanomaterials.

Source: Wikimedia/ NIAID/NIH

Healthy human T cell. Source: Wikimedia/ NIAID/NIH

The team at the Wyss Institute is working on 10-15 organs-on-chips. In theory, these chips can be linked to become a human body on a chip. And that’s what they have in their sights. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has funded the Institute ($37 million) to develop an organ-on-a-chip interrogator instrument that integrates 10 human organs-on-chips to study complex human physiology outside the body.

As an accurate alternative to traditional animal testing models that often fail to predict human responses, this instrumented “human-on-a-chip” will be used to rapidly assess responses to new drug candidates, providing critical information on their safety and efficacy.

Thank you Dr Ingber for a fascinating and informative presentation tonight. Your work is wonderful news for us humans as well as the millions of laboratory animals.

Source: Wikimedia/ NIAID/RML

S. aureus bacteria escaping destruction by human white blood cells. Source: Wikimedia/ NIAID/RML

Further links:

Micro-chips could be the new petri dish. Interview with Dr Ingber on ABC Radio.

Scientists hope to create microchip human organs for testing new drugs, cosmetics. ABC News.


PS – The three images used in this post are from Wikimedia Commons and by far less exciting than the images used by Dr Ingber as part of his presentation.

PPS – Dr Ingber’s presentation is now available online (update 09/06/2014).


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