The beginning of the end of animal testing

Chris Evans, Staff Writer

Great strides have been made in science since the era in which the effects of drugs were unpredictable. Medicines and invasive surgeries are constantly improving to minimize their impact on patients. That’s exactly why Wyss Institute and Harvard University are looking to make another stride with their new “Lung-on-a-chip.”  According to Sciencedaily.com, these researchers have discovered a method to produce a clear microchip, the size of a thumb drive, that recreates the conditions of a human lung.

By September of 2011, Wyss had received grants for developing “heart-lung-on-a-chip,” and “spleen-on-a-chip” for testing various drugs. With the development of this technology, scientists are able to improve their predictions on how a condition or drug would affect a human without testing on a single living creature. Sciencedaily stated that, “Major pharmaceutical companies spend a lot of time and a huge amount of money on cell cultures and animal testing to develop new drugs,” and that “these methods often fail”. Many times, medicine that works for animal subjects do not share the same effects for humans.

There are, however, a few skeptics that question the accuracy of the device. MIT Technology Review noted, “[The Chip lacks] the typical environment that an organ would be exposed to” and Bloomberg Businesweek Technology added that, “among other things, they don’t have nerve cells, and you wouldn’t want to try to digest a hot dog” with the chip that simulates the gut. Regardless of the ability for the chips to indicate if they’re in pain, the chips are able to show chain reactions and hold up a representative environment so that accurate testing can prevent bad medicine from ever entering the public realm.

Bloomberg continues stating that this type of technology will be pushed to the point that scientists are able to completely recreate a human body with “organs-on-a-chip” so that scientists are able to get a complete picture of the effects of diseases and drugs on the human body and, perhaps, lead to the end of animal testing.