This Is for Everyone: Design Experiments for the Common Good

Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, Donald Elliot Ingber, Dan Dongeun Huh, Boston Children's Hospital. Human Organs-on-Chips. 2008 310

Photolithographically etched and replica molded silicone rubber, Each: 1/2 x 1 1/2 x 3/4" (1.3 x 3.8 x 1.9 cm). Gift of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University

Don Ingber: My name is Don Ingber, and I'm the founding Director of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard. My team invented, designed, and fabricated the first human organs-on-chips, which are micro devices lined by living human cells that mimic the structure and function of living organs.

The lung-on-a-chip is the size of a computer memory stick. It's made out of a crystal clear, flexible, rubber-like polymer that has thin, hollow channels through the center that are lined by living cells. We took design principles from how nature builds and we took engineering approaches man has developed, and we combined them together to create this really novel design concept.

This particular design is trying to tackle a major problem in health care and medicine, which is that the drug development model's broken. It currently takes about 15 years and investment over a half a billion dollars for every drug that goes from discovery to clinical testing.

I think one of the most exciting opportunities that the human organs-on-chips offer is, it provides a potential way to replace animal testing over time. It's also something that will enable personalized medicine, because you could take cells from whoever's listening—I can make your lung, your liver, and test drugs for you.

Design brings you to the essence, and it gives you the power to create new functionalities, new capabilities. My goal is to make the world a better place. So I very much believe that design is the path to get there.

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