Organ-on-a-Chip: FDA’s Tech Bet

Who might have thought that one day the function of an entire organ can be packed into a miniature chip? The human intelligence is transcending past all understanding. And the telling proof for the same emerged recently, with the FDA’s announcement that it has begun collaborating with Emulate Inc. to study the company’s “Organs-on-a-Chip” technology in labs at its Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.


Emulate was founded by researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at the Harvard University.


The announcement made on April 11 said the FDA intends to use the technology to study the effects of potentially harmful chemical and biological hazards in food, cosmetics or dietary supplements than is now available.


The Technology

The technology uses flexible polymer organ-chips, which contain tiny channels lined with living human cells. These cells of the size of an AA battery are capable of reproducing blood and air flow just as in the human body. Given the translucent nature of the chips, these would help decipher the inner workings of the organ being studied.

Apart from the chips, there are instrumentation and software apps.


Instrumentation: The organs-on-a-chip is placed in the research system — called the instrument — can recreate the human body’s living environment, including blood flow and breathing motions.


Scientists can use the modular instruments to introduce medicines, chemicals and other toxins to the chip’s environment to test the organ’s response and behavior.


Software Apps: Scientists can extract data that could be collected and analyzed with a modern software, such an app, which is downloadable on a tablet. The software offers the ability to configure cell architecture, tissue-to-tissue interfaces, mechanical forces and the biochemical surroundings, the FDA said.


The study would be initiated with a liver chip, although there is scope for expanding the technology for other making models of other organs such as kidney, lung and intestine.

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