I am not talking about a chip that you eat but rather an electronic chip about the size of a microscope slide.

Researchers from Columbia Engineering and Columbia University Irving Medical Center found their inspiration in the human body and have developed the ‘plug-and-play organ-on-a-chip’. Disease progression and responses to treatment and vaccines vary greatly from one person to another. Engineered tissues are used as models for testing safety and effectiveness.

The current process of developing medications is long and costly. Costs of medications can be extremely high.  Most medications do not make it to trials, when they do it is still years before providers are able to prescribe.  Approved medications can have unforeseen problems that may occur which can harm patients and mandate withdrawal by the FDA. Remember Vioxx?  It was great for arthritis. Went through clinical trials fine but shortly after being released it was found to cause heart attacks and strokes. Vioxx was voluntarily recalled by Merck Pharmaceuticals after about 2 years on the market. The financial loss to patients and the pharmaceutical industry was unmeasurable not to mention the psychological impact.

The plug-and-play organ-on-a-chip can alleviate many of these issues. The researchers chose tissue from the heart, bone, liver and skin because of their very different structure and functional properties. A human tissue-chip system is built by connecting the tissue with a blood supply and basically a computer chip. Tissue would be obtained from the patient by a small sample of blood, then allowed to mature so it functions in a way that mimics normal responses. Simply, it is a mini ‘you’ in a test tube.

The plug-and-play organ-on-a-chip can tell how the individual responds to medications used for diseases such as cancer. Studies can be individualized and patient specific.  So far, the scientists have been able to replicate the adverse effects of the cancer drug doxorubicin. Research is underway in breast cancer, prostate cancer, leukemia, effects of radiation, the effects of lack of blood flow on the heart and brain and the safety and effectiveness of various medications.

The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University is using the ‘organ-on-a-chip’ technology to replicate and study the human immune system’s response to vaccines.

If the plug-and-play organ-on-a-chip continues to move forward, animal and human trials will be a thing of the past which would be HUGE in many ways. 

Live Long, Live Healthy!

Dr. Julie Wood is a Nurse Practitioner and has been serving the Middle Tennessee area for more than 30 years, specializing in adults with obesity, prediabetes and diabetes. Office is located at 401 First Avenue, Mt. Pleasant, TN and statewide with telehealth. Dr. Wood can be reached at 931-325-5560, www.diabetesmgtassociates.com, info@diabetesmgtassociates.com.  

Articles are meant to be informative and should never replace the advice of your health care provider.