Organ on-chips is becoming a hot topic in biotechnology these days. These chips will have a closer resemblance to computer components than human body parts as researchers are focusing on models for a whole range of organs, including the liver, the lung, and even the female reproductive system.
The chips were first developed for evaluating the effectiveness of drugs but have come to be seen as a potentially useful technology in our efforts to ensure the safety of the foods and cosmetics we regulate. They can be put to work to see how the body processes an ingredient in a dietary supplement or a chemical in a cosmetic and how a toxin or combination of toxins affects cells, information that ultimately can be used to help assess risks to human health.
So here are 6 examples of organ-on-a-chip that have been already inserted in a chip:
1. Brain Chips in Space
A startup company Emulate recently announced its plans to send its Brain-Chips to the International Space Station, where they may help to study how the brain functions in space, including the blood-brain barrier and how stressors and inflammation affect brain function.
This Brain-Chip contains both neurons and vascular endothelial cells and is made to model both brain physiology and the blood-brain barrier. They say that they are not trying to entirely recreate a brain but just the smallest functional unit of the organ. The chip has a blood-brain barrier composed of microvascular endothelial cells, neurons, astrocytes, and pericytes, which interact in a very specific manner and need to be organized in a very specific way.
2. Mini heart
Researchers have created small eraser-size devices that contain live, beating heart cells. For creating these devices, researchers first take skin cells from patients and reprogram them into stem cells that later develop into cardiac myocytes. They then place these cells on chips containing bioengineered surfaces that recreate the heart’s natural environment.
McCain, who specializes in heart chips, had used it as a model for Barth syndrome Now. Her team is focused on using these devices to study other diseases. Using the model organism like rats may be helpful, but it does not have the same genetic makeup as we do. So once we have disease models, it will make a huge impact, especially on inherited diseases.
3. Imitating Menstruation
Teresa Woodruff, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University, and colleagues have linked five miniature organs together in a hand-size chip to model the female reproductive tract.
This chip is called EVATAR, is a series of tubes and pumps that carry a blue, blood-like fluid through cells containing five mini organs. This system allows us to do is move media in a way that brings in fresh nutrients and eliminates waste. By adding hormones to the circulating liquid, the team was able to mimic the 28-day menstrual cycle.
Scientists hope that EVATAR will help to explain more about reproductive physiology and disease, as well as in drug testing and development. Now they are making n a male version of the chip, ADATAR.
One of the first organs to be on a chip was the lungs. It is a clear, thumb drive-sized device with two channels: an air-filled upper channel lined with human alveolar epithelial cells, and a lower channel lined with blood vessel cells and a white blood cell-containing solution flowing through. To make a more close resemblance, the researchers also mimicked breathing motion by applying a vacuum to deform the hollow tubes lining the main channels. This one lung alveolus chip provided proof-of-principle for modeling normal organ-level physiology and disease, discovering new insights into the importance of physical forces, finding new therapeutic targets, and even a new drug.
5. Building Barriers
A group of biomedical engineers has created a chip to study the brain and the blood-brain-barrier. Their main focus is on the human neurovascular unit (NVU) because of its importance in the interactions between cortical neurons and the blood-brain barrier (BBB) that protects them, hence the term neurovascular unit.
The NVU chip consists of a tiny cavity divided by a porous membrane separating one chamber, which represents the brain, from another chamber, which represents the surrounding vasculature. It contains cortical neurons, microvascular endothelial cells, astrocytes, and pericytes from humans.
The team has used NVU chip in a variety of applications, such as investigating disease states and studying the effects of inflammation. Currently, they also have initiated a program to use this technology to test drugs for the industry.
Researchers have created an eye-on-a-chip with an eyelid that blinks. This chip is in the shape of a contact lens, approximates the ocular surface of the eye. It contains human cells from the cornea and conjunctiva. They also engineered an eyelid, that attaches to the surface and allows the eye to blink, keeping the surface of the chip lubricated. They plan to use this chip to model other eye conditions, like drug testing and development, and to test and optimize contact lenses. They are currently developing a retina-on-a-chip.
To check how organ on chip works: FDA