"ANIMAL ON-A-CHIP: Microfluidic chips come alive for medical research"
Microelectromechanical systems researchers are getting close to a complete "animal-on-chip" that would allow medical experiments now requiring live animals to be run in vitro on microfluidic chips. The new approach to medical research is based on housing every type of cell inside a microfluidic circulatory system, which is fabricated using semiconductor equipment. In addition to eliminating animals from experimentation, the new devices use commonly available real human cells that are kept alive in culture. The software and circuitry on the chip provide the cells with the chemicals that enable them to perform as if they were in a living body and built-in sensors constantly monitor cell response in real-time. "We believe the animal-on-chip is not only more ethically palatable than using lab animals, but it will also be more accurate because of its built-in sensors and because we will be using real human cells in our tests," said assistant professor Shuichi Takayama at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), whose lab has developed an animal-on-chip.