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February 15, 2011 / Martijn

Organs-on-a-Chip

One of the most challenging aspects of drug development is testing. Scientists are forced either to experiment on whole animals, which is expensive, raises ethical issues and may not predict effects in humans, or to perform tests on microscopic human cells found in tissue cultures, which have been altered to live forever and bear little relation to actual living, breathing people. But researchers are working on a new technique to help bridge that gap: microchips that simulate the activities and mechanics of entire organs and organ systems. These “organs on a chip,” as they are called, are typically glass slides coated with human cells that have been configured to mimic a particular tissue or interface between tissues. Developers hope they could bring drugs to market more quickly and, in some circumstances, perhaps even eliminate the need for animal testing.

via http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=organs-on-a-chip

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