Researchers grow human tissue on a chip

(CNN) – It’s shaped like a microchip, but if you look closely, blood is flowing into those tiny vessels.  This is a patch of heart tissue made entirely in a lab.

Scientists implanted it into a rat, to see if its blood would squeeze through or clot.

“It was very exciting you know after the surgery you can clearly see the blood go through our scaffold,” said Boyang Zhang, University of Toronto.

This is heart tissue on a chip, and yes, it’s beating.  Despite being outside the body, the chip works like a real organ.

“It was amazing because you rarely see cells actually move,” Zhang said.

Researchers at the University of Toronto are on the cutting edge of what’s called “person or organ-on-a-chip” technology.

The chips are tiny scaffolding structures built to house millions of working human cells.  So far, they’ve made heart and liver tissue and now blood vessels the size of a strand of hair.

Scientists say these chips could be used to test new drugs for dangerous side effects, reduce the need for animal trials, and produce far more accurate information.

“It allows us to ask biological questions that we couldn’t ask using an animal model and it allows us to watch that biological process happen in a very realistic setting,” said Chris Moraes, McGill University.

Drug testing is expensive and researchers hope this technology could soon dramatically cut those costs. The ultimate goal, is to one day use ‘organs on chips’ to repair or even replace organs inside our bodies. Although scientists admit that day is years if not decades away.

Copyright 2016 CNN

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