Testing new drugs and treatments (for diseases affecting humans) on animal models does not actually work all the time. That’s why we believe that researchers around the world will find the so-called “gut-on-chip” very helpful. Developed by the research team at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, the microdevice has the structure, physiology, and mechanics of the human intestine. The new product will allow researchers to study more about intestinal disorders and the safety and effectiveness of treatments.
The gut-on-chip is the size of a USB flash drive and features a flexible, porous membrane, which acts as the intestinal barrier. The membrane is attached to the side walls of a central chamber that stretch and recoil, using a vacuum controller, for recreating peristaltic motions. And a single layer of human intestinal epithelial cells grow on the membrane.
Common intestinal microbes will survive on the surface of the device’s intestinal cells and this quality makes it suitable for studying many diseases and the effects of new treatments.
According to Donald Ingber, who led the research team, “Because the models most often available to us today do not recapitulate human disease, we can’t fully understand the mechanisms behind many intestinal disorders, which means that the drugs and therapies we validate in animal models often fail to be effective when tested in humans. Having better, more accurate in vitro disease models, such as the gut-on-a-chip, can therefore significantly accelerate our ability to develop effective new drugs that will help people who suffer from these disorders“.
This is not the first engineered organ model from the Wyss Institute. They are already famous for their lung-on-a-chip, and have received funds for developing a heart-lung micromachine and a spleen-on-a-chip. Head here to know more about gut-on-a-chip.