I never hold my breath on announcements of new technology, but if this pans out it would be a grand step forward towards removing our reliance on animal testing.
Called Organs-On-Chips, it’s exactly what it sounds like: A microchip embedded with hollow microfluidic tubes that are lined with human cells, through which air, nutrients, blood and infection-causing bacteria could be pumped. These chips get manufactured the same way companies like Intel make the brains of a computer. But instead of moving electrons through silicon, these chips push minute quantities of chemicals past cells from lungs, intestines, livers, kidneys and hearts.
The primary purpose of the chips really appears to be “reduction of use of animals in pharmaceutical testing” (rather than, say, complementing animal testing, or simply making vast sums of cash), and they’ve started a company called Emulate in order to market it. It’s lovely to see someone deliberately (rather than accidentally, or grudgingly) moving in that direction.
Further reading: Here’s a little more in-depth review from the journal Nature Biotechnology. Also worthwhile: Emulate’s “publications” section, with journal articles describing the chips’ use as models for various human organs.