Daily Archives: February 21, 2014

Body Parts on a Chip

Link to TED Talk:


This TED Talk is particularly relevant to our Tuesday discussion regarding the accuracy and safety of using animal models to predict the effect(s) of a drug in humans. In this TED Talk, Dr. Geraldine Hamilton introduces a new model called Organs On A Chip. The chip recreates the basic functional units of an organ as well as the biochemical, functional, and mechanical environment normally experienced by the cells/organs in the body. For example, a recreated lung, in a nutshell, consist of a porous membrane, two fluidic channels (for blood and air flow), capillary cells, and lung cells. Additionally, the porous membrane of the lung is contracted and relaxed to mimic the mechanical strains that the lung cells experience during ventilation. To test various conditions – chemicals, bacteria, immune cells, viruses, etc can be added to the fluidic channels to monitor their interactions with the cells and one another. For example, to mimic a lung infection, bacterial cells were added to the air channel and immune cells were added to the blood channel; intriguingly, the immune cells crossed the porous membrane and phagocytosed the bacterial cells. Lastly, because Hamilton’s group has successfully recreated the liver, gut, heart, and bone marrow, these chips can be connected with fluid channels to further study the interaction of drugs/chemicals in the “Human on a Chip.”

I think Dr. Hamilton’s TED Talk is incredibly fascinating as it offers a novel, safe, and accurate model for testing drug interactions in the human body. Additionally, I believe this technology essentially carves the pathway for personalized medicine and pharmacogenomics as cells from specific individuals, populations, and age groups can be used to recreate organs. Furthermore, this model shows vast potential for studying the complex biochemical interactions between drugs and other chemicals/cells as a number of substances/cell types can be added to the fluid membranes to mimic an in vivo environment. Lastly, by simulating some of the complexities of a human body, the human on a chip shows potential for bypassing the unethical use of animal models.