At Harvard University’s Wyss Institute, creative minds are taking inspiration from nature to develop practical engineering solutions. Donald Ingber, the founding director, has a promising invention that may revolutionize medical testing.

Known as the human “organ-on-a-chip,” this small, flexible microchip (the size of a USB stick) contains tiny membranes lined with human cells and can emulate human organs.

In Canada 3 to 4 million animals are used every year in biological research and this chip is an efficient and ethical way to test drugs that will save animal lives. 

Animal models can react very differently than human organs to drugs and treatment options. This organ-on-a-chip can reduce the cost of making drugs while making them more targeted and effective.

Even more promising, the chips could be infused with an individual’s own cells to create tailored treatment options, ushering in an era of personalized medicine.

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For more inventions, watch The Nature of Invention on The Nature of Things.

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