Artificial organs

  • Organ development has traditionally been tricky to study, thanks largely to the difficulty in getting sensors in there without damaging the organs. Now, researchers from Harvard have developed a way to create “cyborg organoids” by integrating nanoelectronics into cell cultures.
  • The placenta may be one of the least understood organs, but it’s important to study its effects on the health of a developing fetus. Researchers at Iowa State University have used microfluidic models of the organ, a placenta-on-a-chip, to see if, and how much, caffeine can cross from mother to baby.
  • It's difficult to study how the heart reacts to diseases and medications. Researchers at Harvard have now grown a model of a human left ventricle that spontaneously beats, marking a substantial step towards engineering entire hearts for more accurate testing of new treatments.
  • The one artificial heart that's approved for human use in the US is only intended to keep patients going until they can get a heart transplant. A new device being developed by the Oregon Health & Science University, however, is designed to be a permanent fix.
  • Science
    Harvard has reported a breakthrough artificial eye just 30 microns in depth which can exceed the capabilities of the human eye. The technology could make a real impact in all manner of optical fields, including those in cameras, telescopes, microscopes, glasses and even virtual reality.
  • For the first time, scientists have successfully grown functioning human kidney tissue in the lab that is able to produce urine. The kidney tissue, generated from human stem cells, was implanted under the skin of mice and went on to develop into working kidney cells.
  • Researchers have used 3D-printing technology to produce individually-tailored model organs. These dummy organs could one day improve your chances of surviving surgery, by allowing doctors to plan and practice a lifesaving procedure on a realistic replica before putting you to the scalpel.
  • Mini lab-grown organs are helpful test subjects for new drugs, but they don’t replicate how drugs affect other parts of the body. Now, researchers at Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine have combined several of these organ models into one system, to create a detailed “body-on-a-chip."
  • Before new drugs can be used on humans, they need to be tested on animals, artificial models or both, but these results don’t often carry across to humans completely. Now researchers have developed a technique to effectively turn rat hearts into miniature human hearts to create more lifelike models.
  • ​The devices currently used to pump blood around the body in lieu of a healthy heart have their drawbacks. With this in mind, scientists have now developed a silicone heart that beats much like the real thing, something that could provide a safer and more comfortable way to keep the blood pumping. ​
  • Organ transplants save lives, but in terms of human donors, demand far exceeds supply. Current research is looking into how replacements could be grown in a lab, and now a team has found a way to control how different types of cells arrange themselves during development.
  • We recently reported on heart structures 3D-printed in a weightless environment. For the first of a regular new feature, we asked one of the company’s chief scientist what was the single biggest impediment to having lab-grown organs available right now. Here’s what he had to say.