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The newest advance in organs-on-chips: a tiny, 3-D scaffold seeded with heart cells and stocked with functioning blood vessels.

“Previous chips were made by growing cells between a piece of glass and silicone, which meant that the cells could never be implanted” in a living organism, said researcher Milica Radisic of the University of Toronto, who helped to build the chips.”

The new chip represents a more accurate model of a human organ, the researchers say, and could potentially one day be implanted.


The scaffold is made of a biodegradable polymer hammered out into thin layers, which are then stacked on top of each other. The whole thing is dunked into a liquid that contains living cells, which grow and function on the scaffold. Liver cells grown on it were able to process drugs and produce urea, while heart cells could beat like a normal heart.

The research was published in the new Nature Materials.