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Biotechnology

A body-on-a-chip strings together 10 model human organs

The new device could help researchers see how different types of tissue respond to drugs without using lab animals.

Back story: Current organ-on-a chip systems place different kinds of human cells into a device andthen push fluid through them to mimic blood flow. That lets researchers see how, say, lung cells respond to different conditions.

What’s new: MIT engineers have now built a more complex version, which combines cells from 10 different organs—liver, lung, gut, endometrium, brain, heart, pancreas, kidney, skin, and skeletal muscle. That allows tests to see how different model organs react and interact with each other when exposed to different chemicals in the fluid.

Why it matters: The cells can live for up to four weeks of testing, and the team has already used the setup to see how the different model organs respond to painkillers. It’s still a crude approximation of our body, but it could be used to test how organs react to early-stage drugs.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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