Thursday, January 22, 2015

Organ-on-a-chip - alternative to animal testing?

Constant search for the alternatives to animal testing keep pushing biotechnological research forward. Scientist is currently developing new mock organs that can fit in a palm of a hand.

Organ-on-a-chip is a multi-channel 3-D microfluidic cell culture chip that simulates the activities, mechanics and physiological responses of entire organs and organ systems. The convergence of labs-on-chips (LOCs) and cell biology has permitted the study of human physiology in an organ-specific context, introducing a novel model of in vitro multicellular human organisms. 

A lab-on-a-chip is a device that integrates one or several laboratory functions on a single chip that deals with handling particles in hollow microfluidic channels. Advantages in handling particles at such a small scale include lowering fluid volume consumption (lower reagents costs, less waste), increasing portability of the devices, increasing process control (due to quicker thermo-chemical reactions) and decreasing fabrication costs. Additionally, microfluidic flow is entirely laminar (i.e., no turbulence). Consequently, there is virtually no mixing between neighboring streams in one hollow channel. In cellular biology convergence, this rare property in fluids has been leveraged to better study complex cell behaviors, such as cell motility in response to chemotactic stimuli, stem cell differentiation, axon guidance, subcellular propagation of biochemical signaling and embryonic development.