Organ on a chip could put an end to animal testing

A pioneering Harvard bioengineering professor will give a lecture on his work into the production of an ‘organ-on-a-chip’ which could reduce research and bring an end to animal testing of drug.

Professor Don Igber, Director of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, will discuss the workings of a three dimensional model of a fully functioning human lung that is able to mimic accurately to give a virtual model of toxins on the organ.

The device, which works by incorporating living cells onto biocompatible chip materials, will also mean that it is possible to monitor how pharmaceutical drugs are taken into human breathing apparatus to assess the safety and effectiveness of new drugs.

While there may be challenges in replicating the full functions of a human body in response to specific toxins or drugs Prof Igber’s advances in this field could mean that the amount of time it takes to introduce new drugs to the market could be drastically reduced.

Furthermore it would mean that rather than test on animals, clearly a divisive issue and a method which does not necessarily give accurate results of how a human will react, could be a resigned to the history books.

The professor will be discussing how understanding the fundamentals of how molecules make up living cells and how these are in turn formed into organ tissue, a process called ‘tensegrity’, is of paramount importance to allowing computer systems to develop organ-on-a-chip methods.

The lecture will be held at Imperial College London’s South Kensington Campus on Thursday 19 May 2011.