Organs-on-chips have already begun to revolutionize the way we think about drug testing and disease treatment. Learn more...
Wyss scientists aim to mastermind the structure and function of biological systems -- how the lung expands and contracts when we breathe, for example -- and then apply the relevant principles to design materials and devices that transform medical treatment, from the diagnosis of a disease to the discovery and delivery of appropriate drugs.
One example is a suite of devices called human "organs-on-chips," each about the size of a memory stick, that contain human cells and mimic the blood vessels and tissues of living organs. In just a few short years the team has demonstrated the efficacy of using these complex, three-dimensional models of human organs to understand human disease, identify toxins in the environment, and help treat life-threatening diseases, such as sepsis and pulmonary edema, or "fluid on the lungs."
The organs-on-chips research program successes have already begun to revolutionize the way we think about drug testing and disease treatment. Traditionally, scientists have used cell cultures in Petri dishes and animal models to understand how a human body may react to a drug, toxin, or disease. But animal models often fail, costing the pharmaceutical industry billions of dollars and years of time.
In addition, clinicians and researchers need reliable, inexpensive diagnostic tools that can be operated by untrained workers -- whether in a remote village or a pharmaceutical laboratory. While most microfluidic devices are fabricated using polymers or plastics, Wyss researchers working on this platform are finding a solution in microfluidic paper-based analytical devices that incorporate human cells, screen for diseases and toxins, and can be produced very cheaply and used anywhere. This simple, easy-to-use tool would enable a person suffering from diabetes in the far reaches of Mongolia to send a
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