Scientists Can Now Put A Copy Of Your Heart Onto A Microchip

Here's what this technology could mean for your health.

Scientists at U.C. Berkeley and Harvard's WYSS Institute have pioneered a method of making biologically viable copies of your actual organs – including your heart and lungs – and placing them onto microchips.

The organs are created from stem cells and inserted into clear polymer vessels, allowing scientists to examine them up close. 

The technology allows doctors to explore the effects of medications and experimental drugs on living human tissue and potentially eliminating the guesswork involved when using non-human subjects for testing, thus speeding up the time it takes to get a drug to market while lowering the costs.

In a 2015 article published in Scientific Reports, researchers at U.C. Berkeley noted that "the average time to develop and launch a new drug is 10–5 years." In an interview with Berkeley News UCB professor Kevin Healey added that "it takes about $5 billion on average to develop a drug, and 60 percent of that figure comes from upfront costs in the research and development phase. Using a well-designed model of a human organ could significantly cut the cost and time of bringing a new drug to market."

Most importantly, this technology could eliminate the need for animal testing and save human lives.

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Toxic effects that don't appear in animal subjects may appear only after a drug has reached pharmacies and the public. As an article posted on Harvard's WYSS Institute's website points out, "innumerable animal lives are lost," during drug testing, "and the process often fails to predict human responses because traditional animal models often do not accurately mimic human pathophysiology."

Science communicator Luke Robert Mason, who met with Healey's team for a video presented by Futurism.com, mentioned in a Facebook comment that the Berkeley researcher "tested their organs on a chip with pre-existing drugs that are known to have caused side effects. He revealed that if this technology had been available at the time the drugs would have never made it onto the market, saving hundreds of lives."

In addition, Healey told Berkeley News, "these chips could replace the use of animals to screen drugs for safety and efficacy."

Take a look at the short video below and see how this technology could change medicine.

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