Harvard University researchers have recently made the first entirely 3D-printed organ-on-a-chip with integrated sensing. Built by a fully automated, digital manufacturing procedure, the 3D-printed heart-on-a-chip can be quickly fabricated and customized, allowing researchers to easily collect reliable data for short-term and long-term studies.
“This new programmable approach to building organs-on-chips not only allows us to easily change and customize the design of the system by integrating sensing but also drastically simplifies data acquisition,” said Johan Ulrik Lind, first author of the paper and postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).
Organs-on-chips mimic the structure and function of native tissue and have emerged as a promising alternative to traditional animal testing. Harvard researchers have developed microphysiological systems that mimic the microarchitecture and functions of lungs, hearts, tongues and intestines. The researchers developed six different inks that integrated soft strain sensors within the micro-architecture of the tissue. In a single, continuous procedure, the team 3D printed those materials into a cardiac microphysiological device — a heart on a chip — with integrated sensors.
The chip contains multiple wells, each with separate tissues and integrated sensors, allowing researchers to study many engineered cardiac tissues at once. To demonstrate the efficacy of the device, the team performed drug studies and longer-term studies of gradual changes in the contractile stress of engineered cardiac tissues, which can occur over the course of several weeks.