The End of Drug Testing on Animals, Lung-on-a-Chip Device

By: | March 9th, 2013

The Lung-on-a-Chip is an award winning device that mimics human lungs in the area of drug testing and could eliminate animal testing. The chip, developed by the Wyss Institute is about the size of a USB stick and is created with human lung and blood vessel cells and acts and reacts much like a real human lung would.

The UK’s National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research awarded the chip the NC3Rs award for its advancement in drug testing methods other than animals.

The chip creates an environment for drug testing similar to using animals. It imitates the mechanical and biochemical behaviours of human lungs. This method could ultimately reduce the need for drug testing on animals.

The Lung-on-a-Chip is made up of two channels, which are separated by a malleable porous membrane. One side is lined with human lung cells from the air sacs while the other is lined with human capillary blood cells taken from human lungs. Vacuum channels each side of the membrane cause it to expand and contract much like a real lung.

Bacteria and white blood cells are added to the membrane to see even further how it reacts like a human lung. Creating this imitation, researchers can look to create real alternatives for testing treatments.

“We believe that our human breathing Lung-on-a-Chip, and other organ chips we have in development, represent a first wave of exciting new alternative approaches to animal testing that hopefully will change how drug development is carried out in the future,” commented Wyss founding director, Donald Ingber on the award and the chip’s potential.

“This award helps to validate this radical new approach on the global stage, and to strengthen our resolve to work with government agencies and pharmaceutical companies that have been supporting our work to pursue this alternative approach to animal testing.”

Lung on a Chip — Wyss Institute from Wyss Institute on Vimeo.

Jonathan Keane

Irish journalist writing on business, tech and engineering.


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