Category Archives: Discoveries

Harvard’s Wyss Institute to use ‘Organ-on-a-Chip’ microdevices to evaluate therapies for lethal radiation exposure

Have you ever wondered how it would be if we could have a model which can predict the pharmacodynamic parameters in real time as that of a human? Guess, it not too far. Harvard University researchers have been working on a 3D – microfluidic system which integrates technology and medical research. It has been named as Organs-on-Chips (OC).

Organ – on – Chip (OC)

Now they have received a contract from US FDA for developing and testing one such model for Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS). ARS is an illness affecting a combination of organs that occurs when the body receives a high dose of radiation – over a short period of time – as would be expected to occur after a nuclear or radiological incident.

The development of medical countermeasures to treat ARS presents complex scientific challenges. For example, ARS may involve many organ systems, which makes it difficult to study candidate medical countermeasures that target the radiation effects on one specific organ system in animal models. In addition, certain candidate medical countermeasures cannot be effectively studied in animal models because their activity is specific to humans.

Project Description

Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering is developing organs-on-chips that mimic the structure, function, and interactions between the living tissues within human organs – such as the lung or intestine – on chips the size of a thumb drive.

Under the contract, Wyss Institute scientists will develop models of radiation damage in their lung, gut, and bone marrow organs-on-chips and then use these models to test candidate medical countermeasures to treat such damage. This will provide a capability to evaluate candidate medical countermeasures for ARS within the specific context of a target human organ system, which may yield valuable information for facilitating development.

Project Outcomes

This project will:

  • Advance the development of micro-physiological systems (organs-on-chips) that recapitulate many of the complicated interactions between cells and tissues that occur in the gastrointestinal tract, bone marrow, and lungs
  • Characterize how these organs-on-chips systems respond to radiation exposure and compare the responses against those known to occur in people and animals exposed to radiation
  • Link together the different organ-on-chips systems (for example, gut chip and bone marrow chip) and expose them to radiation to simulate the interplay between different organ systems exposed to radiation
  • Test candidate radiation medical countermeasures in the individual organs-on-chips and linked organ-on-chips systems

                                                                                                                             ——- US FDA Website

 For more information click here.

Now let us see about Organs– on – Chips

It is a multichannel 3D – Microfluidic culture chip, which simulates activities, mechanics and physiological response of entire organs and organ system. It mimics the function of a living human being on clear flexible microchip. It can be subjected to physiological conditions inside the body and can respond to infection, inflammation, environmental toxin and drugs. This can give more predictable response than cell culture and animal testing.

They have the potential to eliminate the poor drug formulations at the preclinical stage & can shorten drug developmental process & effort – Lower time/cost. This may replace animals in drug development and toxin testing and may also help to customise a drug to individual’s physiology, thereby represents a potential in the field on personalised medicine.

Different organs can be simulated using the OC. Also various organs can be simulated on a single chip – Human on Chip, acting as a homunculus, which gives a real time simulation of the whole human body with interaction between multiple organs. This can provide a predictable in-vitro disease model.

Human on Chip


  • Quick Analysis
  • High Throughput Screening (HTS)
  • Easily described by pharmacokinetic models
  • Accurate control of parameters (Laminar flow, Concentration gradient)
  • Integration of sensors (optoelectronic and others) for online monitoring of response


  • Not all properties can be studied or measured
  • Low material biocompatibility : material for fabrication (PDMC, polycarbonate, polyester)
  • Single use device – difficult to sterilize
  • Extrapolation to complete organs not possible
  • Limited or no application on chronic diseases, adaptive immune responses, complex system level behaviors of endocrine, skeletal and nervous systems
  • Short time frame
  • High development and manufacturing costs

Click here watch WYSS institute video on Organ on Chip.

Here I would like to thank Dr. Shashidar , CEO of Esavyasa for introducing me to this field of organ on chip