A breakthrough in the medical field has snatched the 2015 Design of the Year contest, the very first award received by this sector from the global competition. The exhibition is by the Design’s Museum located in London which features the most innovative and advanced designs of all kinds. And this year’s winner certainly deserves the top prize.
The entry, labeled as “Organs-on-Chips”, is a device that mimics human organs. The design was created by scientists at the Wyss Institute from the University of Harvard. The culmination of the project, named “Human-Body-on-Chips”, was the first ever silicon chip that can imitate the same physiological function as the human lung.
During the contest, tests were carried out to see the functionality of the device and it indeed performed just as what the scientists described. The “Lung-on-a-Chip” for instance, contracts and relaxes just like our lungs do when air passed through the cells. The chip, about the size of a computer memory stick and lined with microfluidic channels with living human cells, is put in lieu of a particular organ which then mirror that organ’s function. In one of the videos highlighting the device, it showed how white blood cells migrate from the blood channel to the air channel when scientists introduced bacteria. This demonstration can be observed in real time in a microscopic level. It generated quite the buzz from inside and outside the scientific community because of the doors it has opened.
One of the biggest changes this new breakthrough can offer is that it has a huge potential to end animal testing. Indeed, the device is already turning heads of small and large animal rights advocates that caught wind of the project. There are a lot of studies out there that shows animal testing doesn’t always translate to humans. Researches about a certain drug, for instance, can take years before completion, and this process have required a lot of animal testing before any conclusion can be reach. With the device it’s highly possible that animals will no longer be needed to test biological responses on varying compounds.
Another benefit is the silicon chip could help the cosmetic industry by testing the toxicity level of compounds that composed cosmetic products. Even now scientists are looking at a grander scale where different chips representing different organs might be fuse together to form the entirety of a human being. Drugs can then be tested on this replica to see the effects each compound has – all in real time.
Life and Beauty
The device has been highly praised by Deyan Sudjic, organizer of the Design of the Year 2015, stating that the project in incredibly useful for humanity. Paolo Antonelli, who nominated the device for the Design Museum award, stated that the Organ-on Chip is “the epitome of design innovation, elegantly beautiful, arresting concept, and pioneering application.” And it’s indeed beautiful as it celebrates science, life, and the advancement of both.