The Wyss Institute at Harvard University has developed ten different types of “organs-on-chips,” a still experimental technology designed to replace often expensive and ethically fraught human or animal testing in the pharmaceutical and medical industries. The chips—including the kidney-on-a- chip and the gut-on-a-chip—simulate human organ mechanical and biochemical functions, and can be used singly or in combinations to test the effects of new drug treatments on human physiology. For example, the lung-on-a-chip, a clear, flexible polymer lined with bioengineered human airway and capillary cells, is both better at predicting outcomes and less expensive than animal testing, as demonstrated in the Pharmaceutical Journal. Removing some of the pitfalls associated with human and animal testing means, theoretically, that drug trials could be conducted faster and their viable results disseminated more quickly.
Gallery label from This Is for Everyone: Design Experiments for the Common Good, February 14, 2015–January 31, 2016.