The computer chip that thinks it's a tiny human liver

The computer chip that thinks it's a tiny human liverOutside of Hollywood special effects shops, you won’t find living human organs floating in biology labs. Set aside all the technical difficulties with sustaining an organ outside the body—full organs are too precious as transplants to use in experiments. But many important biological studies and practical drug tests can be done only by studying an organ as it operates. A new technology could fill this need by growing functional pieces of human organs in miniature, on microchips.

In 2010, Donald Ingber from the Wyss Institute developed a lung-on-a-chip, the first of its kind. The private sector quickly jumped in, with companies such as Emulate, headed by Ingber and others from the Wyss Institute, forming partnerships with researchers in industry and government, including DARPA, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. So far, various groups have reported success making miniature models of the lung, liver, kidney, heart, bone marrow, and cornea. Others will certainly follow.

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