Back when I was a kid, my parents bought me an electronic organ for Christmas. It was a kick ass Casio - polyphonic sound, your choice of backing tracks and an awesome feature whereby it would play a chord with a single key press. I thought I was Jean Michel Jarre, or that guy with the big hair from Fame (come on, it was the 80s!), but in truth, I’d just press the Demo key and mime virtuosity.
Scientists at Harvard, fortunately, are a little more serious about their electronic organs, and not the musical kind either. According to Popular Science, Biomedical Engineer Dan Huh has created the world’s first artificial lung on a chip.
The chip, no bigger than a pill, contains an artificial alveolus, one of the sacs in the lungs where oxygen crosses a membrane to enter the body’s blood vessels. A polymer membrane separates blood-vessel cells mimicking a capillary wall from lung-cancer cells which ape lung epithelial cells.
In tests, the chip’s immune response behaves exactly like real tissue. Scientists believe this is the first step to true electronic organ systems on which drugs can be tested. Two years from now, the hope is that the chip will accurately mimic the process by which lungs swap oxygen for carbon dioxide.
A chip that breathes? Jean-Michel Jarre can keep his Oxygene.
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