Researchers are trying to avoid animal testing by printing organs with integrated sensors on chips

 

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Scientists are avoiding the
testing of animals by using microphysiological systems — or organs-on-chips —
to analyze how drugs, cosmetics, and diseases may affect the human body.
Harvard researchers have helped to rectify the chips’ costly manufacturing
expenses by developing materials allowing 3D printouts of the devices.

Organs-on-chips are about the
same size of a USB stick, incorporating living human cells to emulate organs’
functions and certain diseases. Imitating the lungs and intestines, among other
organs, the chips require collaboration with microscopes and high-speed cameras
to work efficiently. Travis Busbee, a co-author of the research, said the team
approached these challenges with the goal of improving the chips’ digital
manufacturing. “By developing new printable inks for multi-material 3D
printing, we were able to automate the fabrication process while increasing the
complexity of the devices,” he shared.

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Researchers ended up creating six
3D-printable materials that replicate human heart tissue and include soft-strain
sensors, which allow for studying tissue over time. Key areas of interest
related to the tissue are how their contractile stress varies and how exposure
to toxins impact organs.

“Researchers are often left
working in the dark when it comes to gradual changes that occur during cardiac
tissue development and maturation because there has been a lack of easy,
non-invasive ways to measure the tissue’s functional performance,” said John
Ulrik Lind, first author of the paper. “These integrated sensors allow
researchers to continuously collect data while tissues mature and improve their
contractility.”

Experimentation with the chips
has proven that the manufacturing
process
can easily be repeated and adapted to create other organs. While
one of the key benefits is obviously finding alternatives to animal
testing
, which often isn’t even accurate because of animals’ different
pathophysiology, the study also opens up an entirely new form of 3D printer
use. It also has the potential of simplifying disease research, which can
normally take up to several years; according to the Wyss Institute, testing a
single drug compound can cost more than $2 billion.

The research team even released a
video displaying the chips and their potential. Check it out below!

Source: Computer
World
, New
Atlas
, Futurism