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Will 3D printed organs-on-chips replace animal testing?

heartchip_605 (WYSS).jpg

Harvard University researchers have 3D printed the first organ-on-a-chip with integrated sensors. This new technology could revolutionize the biomedical research field, which has relied on expensive and time-consuming animal studies and cell cultures for decades.

Organs-on-chips, or microphysiological systems (MPS), are microchips that recapitulate the microarchitecture and functions of living human organs in vitro. The Wyss Institute at Harvard University explains MPS as follows: “Each individual organ-on-chip is composed of a clear flexible polymer about the size of a computer memory stick that contains hollow microfluidic channels lined by living human cells interfaced with a human endothelial cell-lined artificial vasculature, and mechanical forces can be applied to mimic the physical microenvironment of living organs.”  Typically, MPS are made in clean rooms using a complex, multi-step lithographic process. Collecting data requires microscopy or high-speed cameras.

What makes this new MPS different, is the simplified manufacturing process and the integrated sensors. Both improvements were accomplished with multi-material 3D printing. The researchers designed six “inks” that enable integration of sensors. The researchers successfully 3D printed a heart-on-a-chip with integrated sensors. They then used the heart-on-a-chip in various studies, including drug responses.  The integrated sensors enable continuous data collection, allowing scientists to study gradual changes over longer periods of time.

Read the research published in Nature Materials or watch this video to learn more:

 

 

 

 

Photo and video credit: Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University



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