In a laboratory at Harvard University, there is a small plastic chip that can breathe like a human lung. There are also chips that function like mini hearts, livers, kidneys, and intestines.
These bodily mimics are being developed at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, a research center dedicated to developing cutting-edge healthcare technologies inspired by—as the name suggests—human biology.
By designing so-called “organs-on-chips,” Wyss researchers hope to provide a more efficient, less costly way to run drug trials. If the approach pans out, the technology could also minimize the pharmaceutical industry’s reliance on animal testing, and one day help personalize drug therapies for an array of conditions.