Heart on-a-chip beats
Bioengineers at the University of Berkeley aim to create all of the human organs on-a-chip then connect them with micro-fluidic channels to create a complete human-being on-a-wafer.
"We have learned how to derive almost any type of human tissue from skin stem cells as was first discovered by Yamanaka," professor Kevin Healy told EE Times. "Our initial application is drug screening without having to use animals, but putting organs-on-a-chip using the stem cells of the patient could help with genetic diseases as well."
As to connecting different organs using micro-fluidic channels to carry blood and natural biological fluids between them, the human-on-a-wafer could be used to study the interaction of drugs among different organs.
"For instance, one drug might solve a heart problem, but create toxins in the liver," Healy told us. "Which would be much better to find out before administering to the patient."
As to creating living robots in this way, Healy said that was not their mission on the current project, since their funding in coming from the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH’s) Tissue Chip for Drug Screening Initiative, an interagency collaboration specifically aimed at developing 3-D human tissue chips for drug screening.
However, the technology being creating, especially the microfluidic channels connecting the organs-on-a-chip so that they interact, could someday serve as a basis for making robot-like creatures.
"What we would need for that is sensors and actuators. Sensors would be the easiest, but MIT in particular is working on artificial muscles to serve as actuators," Healy told us.
So far Healy and colleagues have created and inch-long artificial heart, housed in silicone, containing real cardiac muscle cells. In about 24-hours after the heart cells are inserted in the device, then spontaneously begin beating at a normal 55-to-80 time per second, pumping blood from through the microfluidic channels. It also responds normally to drugs proven to speed up or slowdown its frequency.
Microfluidic channels now only carry nutrients, but some day could also carry away waste products, according to Anurag Mathur, a postdoctoral scholar in Healy’s lab and a California Institute for Regenerative Medicine fellow. Today the cells remain viable over several weeks. Potentially hundreds of organs-on-a-chip could be spread across a wafer all interconnected by microfluidic channels for blood and other essential bodily fluids.
Get all the details free in Human iPSC-based Cardiac Microphysiological System For Drug Screening Applications.
About the author:
R. Colin Johnson, Advanced Technology Editor, EE Times