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Organ Chips Featured at Barbican Centre in London

Exhibit explores the evolution of the relationship between humans and technology

By Lindsay Brownell

(BOSTON) — Today, a new exhibit called AI: More than Human opens at the Barbican Centre in London, and aims to tell the rapidly developing story of artificial intelligence via a survey of today’s cutting-edge creative and scientific developments that are questioning what it means to be human.

Human Organ Chips, like this Lung Chip, are seeded with living human cells of various organ types and faithfully mimic many of the functions of whole human organs, offering the potential to eliminated animal testing and improve the precision of diagnostic tests and disease treatments. Credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University

Among the projects featured in the exhibit are two human Organ Chips that were developed at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University and then licensed to Emulate, Inc, a startup that is continuing the R&D of the Organ Chips and commercializing the products to make them available to scientists in academia and industry worldwide.

“The ultimate goal of the Wyss Institute’s translationally focused model is to ensure the bioinspired technologies we develop have near-term impact. So, it’s very exciting to be able to present an example of how the Wyss Institute was able to develop a new technology with great potential to advance biomedical research, in this case human Organ Chips, and then entrust that technology to a company that is now commercializing them and selling products to customers around the world,” said Wyss Institute Founding Director Donald Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., who is also the Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at Harvard Medical School and the Vascular Biology Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, as well as Professor of Bioengineering at Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).

The exhibit includes two early bespoke Organ Chip models from the Wyss Institute, and two commercialized versions developed by Emulate. A video accompanying the chips shows them seeded with living human cells, explains how they are able to recapitulate key biological functions of human organs, and describes their potential for future use in precision medicine, personalized safety, and to better predict human response to drugs, chemicals, and foods.

Organ Chips featured at the AI: More than Human exhibit at the Barbican Centre. Credit: Emulate, Inc. 

“Organ Chips allow us to go beyond animal models to study human physiology and one day they could be used to determine exactly which drug is most likely to help a patient with a certain disease, which could revolutionize the way we develop medicines and treat diseases” said Geraldine A. Hamilton, Ph.D., the President and Chief Scientific Officer of Emulate who previously helped Ingber oversee the development of Organ Chip technology at the Wyss Institute. “Our goal at Emulate is to advance our lab-ready system with Organ Chips for a range of clinical applications and ultimately democratize the technology so that it can have broad impact on patients’ health.”

The Organ Chips are part of the “Endless Evolution” section of AI: More Than Human, which looks at projects that are directing the future of our species and reflects on how artificial forms of life fit into the “laws of nature.” Other projects featured in this section include the humanoid Alter 3 robot that explores what it means to be “life-like,” AI-driven “personal computer farms” from the MIT Media Lab that optimize the development of crops in tabletop-sized growing chambers, and an installation that contains synthesized fragrances from flowers that have been driven to extinction by human activity.

The other sections of AI: More than Human, which runs through August 2019, include the topics of “The Dream of AI,” “Mind Machines,” and Data Worlds,” which collectively ask big questions such as: What does it mean to be human? What is consciousness? Will machines ever outsmart a human? And, how can humans and machines work collaboratively?

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