"Gut-on-a-chip" (via Harvard University)
Sure it sounds creepy, but think of the education that can be had with pocket-sized living models of human organs. In order to get a different perspective on the way human intestines work, Dr. Donald Ingber and a team of researchers from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University have designed a micro-sized living model based off of the human digestive tract.
Donald and his team created the ‘gut-on-a-chip’ by lining a series of tracts with living human intestinal cells that function the same as if they were inside the human body. The cells, which also grow digestive microbes as they would inside the human body, are placed on a flexible membrane which is housed inside a block of silicon about the size of a stick of computer ram. The membrane, which moves with the help of a vacuum system, acts as a recreation of the intestinal barrier which regulates the movement of antigens against bad burritos or other potentially toxic entities, as well as moving food along the digestive system.
The micro-design also replicates the movement of fluid, as well as blood through micro-capillaries, between the intestinal cell layers by pumping red and blue dye through separate channels that lead into the main channel which aids in giving a "more complete" view of how the intestinal system works. The team hopes that the ‘gut-on-a-chip’ will aid in diagnosing digestive disorders among other applications. It is better to test on a chip as opposed to a complete human being. Good job, Dr. Ingber.