Lung On A Chip - Electronics Plus Human Cells

The lung-on-a-chip combines living human cells with solid state electronics; it mimics the alveolar membrane, which is the body's barrier between the air and the bloodstream. It was created by researchers at Harvard's Wyss Institute.

Take a look at this explanatory lung-on-a-chip video.


(Lung on a chip.)

Don Ingber, the Director of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, describes the lung-on-a-chip:

...a human, breathing lung on a chip. It is a flexible device that is fabricated using microengineering techniques developed initially for microchips for the computer industry and we made small channels in here that are lined by human cells, airway cells, blood vessel cells and it actually breathes.

It can be used to test for environmental toxins, and may one day replace animal testing for similar purposes.

Science fiction fans no doubt are thinking about Philip K. Dick, who was fascinated by the idea of combing living cells and electronics. Consider the incomparable swibble from his 1955 short story Service Call:

Patiently, the repairman explained elementary physics. "Swibble-culture is an organic phenotype evolved in a protein medium under controlled conditions. The directing neurological tissue that forms the basis of the swibble is alive, certainly, in the sense that it grows, thinks, feeds, excretes waste. Yes, it's definitely alive. But the swibble, as a functioning whole, is a manufactured item. The organic tissue is inserted in the master tank and then sealed.
(Read more about Dick's swibble)

I also thought of the Ampek F-a2 Recording System from his 1966 novel The Simulacra:

Nat Flieger reflexively poured water into a cup and fed the living protoplasm incorporated into the Ampek F-a2 recording system which he kept in his office; the Ganymedean life form did not experience pain and had not yet objected to being made over into a portion of an electronic system... neurologically it was primitive, but as an auditory receptor it was unexcelled.
(Read more about PKD's Ampek F-a2 Recording System )

From Harvard via MedGadget.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 7/5/2010)

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