Organ/tissue-on-a-chip technology aims to improve our understanding of various tissues by recreating them in the lab. While we are still quite limited in our ability to generate large replacement tissue segments, scientists have been relatively successful in creating miniaturized versions of various tissues and organs housed within microfluidic systems. These systems can then be used to test drug toxicity and efficacy and to study both normal and diseased cellular physiology. They represent a significant improvement over two-dimensional cell cultures.
Cells behave differently depending on the materials on which they are growing, and these devices more closely match that of a cell’s natural, in vivo environment. Researchers are also beginning to combine multiple tissues, creating body-on-a-chip systems that account for the interactions between different tissue types. This technology has the potential to eventually surpass the accuracy and convenience of animal models in certain applications, but its success remains to be seen.