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Drug-testing alternative: a lung on a chip


Combining microfabrication techniques from the computer industry with modern tissue engineering, a team at Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering has created a device that mimics the function of a human lung. This living “lung-on-a-chip,” which incorporates human lung and blood-vessel cells, reproduces the all-important interface between the lung’s tiny air sacs and the bloodstream. Breathing is simulated with a vacuum pump.

The wafer-sized device mimics the human lung’s response to infectious agents, airborne particles and toxins in a way that’s truer to real life than standard cell testing in a lab dish.

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