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David Plaut: Off the Cuff

Going Beyond Lab on a Chip

Published April 1, 2014 2:30 PM by David Plaut

In my last blog, I touched on some ideas and tools that are being used to build “labs on chips.”  The word “nano” (1.10-9) operates significantly in this area. If you were as excited and intrigued with that blog, read on! For now, we are going to discuss “organs-on-a-chip” and even a “body-on-a-chip.” Just how does one model, test and learn about the communication and control of biological systems with individual organs-on-chips that are one-thousandth or one-millionth of the size of adult organs, or even smaller [i.e. organs for a milliHuman (mHu) or microHuman (μHu)]?

With serious work being done to realize functioning artificial livers, kidneys, hearts and lungs on chips, the next step is not only to interconnect these organs but also to consider the integration of stem cell technology to create interconnected patient-specific organs. Such a patient-specific body-on-a-chip requires a sophisticated set of tools for micropattering cell cultures in 3D to create interconnected tissue-like organ structures. It seems the anticipation is that such a technology would have a wide area of application, primarily benefiting drug development, chemical safety testing and disease modeling.

We are not there, yet. But it is certain that a large amount of work is going into these projects not just for the ‘fun’ of creating, say, a kidney on a chip, but because the results will aid in drug testing and replacement medicine and individual (unique) drug treatment.


1)            Lab Chip. 2013 Sep 21;13(18):3496-511. Scaling and systems biology for integrating multiple organs-on-a-chip. Wikswo JP, 2) Integr Biol (Camb). 2013 Sep;5(9):1149-61. On being the right size: scaling effects in designing a human-on-a-chip.Moraes C, 3) Lab Chip. 2013 Sep 21;13(18):3471-80. The future of the patient-specific Body-on-a-chip. Williamson A.


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