Organs-on-Chip – Mimicking the in-vivo cellular microenvironment
The objective of the Organs-on-Chip Technologies Laboratory is to develop organs-on-chip, focusing on the lung and its diseases, in collaboration with the Pulmonary Medicine and the Thoracic Surgery Clinics of the University Hospital of Bern. To achieve this goal, the group combines engineering, in particular microfluidics and microfabrication, cell biology and tissue engineering methods, material sciences and medicine. Recently, we developed a breathing lung-on-chip, an advanced lung alveolar model that functions to emulate the ultra-thin air-blood barrier including the three-dimensional cyclic mechanical strain generated by the breathing motions. This system is currently further developed in collaboration with the start-up AlveoliX, with the aim to revolutionize the preclinical market. A second research direction aims at developing another part of the lung parenchyma, a functional lung microvasculature. Here, lung endothelial cells are seeded in a micro-engineered environment, where they self-assemble to build a network of perfusable and contractile microvessels of only a few tens of micrometers in diameter.
Next to the pharmaceutical applications, organs-on-chip are seen as having the potential to be used in precision medicine to test the patients own cells in view to tailor the best therapy for each patient. Furthermore, such systems have the significant potential to reduce the use of animal models in medical and life-science research.