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Instead of putting chips in your stomach, how about putting your stomach in a chip?
Yeah… I’m not going to claim that I really understand what the heck is going on here. But I do know “nifty” when I see it. Evidently it’s possible to build working simulations of human organs on something that looks like a piece of plexiglass the size of a USB stick. Folks at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have just unveiled the “gut-on-a-chip.” Real intestinal cells, real “wave-like peristaltic motions” that move stuff through the tiny digestive tract — no word on whether there’s a tiny toilet attached to the end of it. Here it is, in language much more accurate than any attempt at my paraphrasing it:
The new device mimics complex 3D features of the intestine in a miniaturized form. Inside a central chamber, a single layer of human intestinal epithelial cells grows on a flexible, porous membrane, recreating the intestinal barrier. The membrane attaches to side walls that stretch and recoil with the aid of an attached vacuum controller. This cyclic mechanical deformation mimics the wave-like peristaltic motions that move food along the digestive tract. The design also recapitulates the intestinal tissue-tissue interface, which allows fluids to flow above and below the intestinal cell layer, mimicking the luminal microenvironment on one side of the device and the flow of blood through capillary vessels on the other.
What’s the point, you say? Implications include investingating intestinal ailments like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and testing new drugs to treat them. The gut-on-a-chip follows 2010’s lung-on-a-chip project, which appears to be part of a larger effort to bascially make all of your organs — you guessed it — on-a-chip.
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