Berkeley team of scientists "packed" living cells into a microchip and they formed tissue capable of pulsing and responding to stimuli.
Twenty-four hours after the cells were loaded onto the device, they began to pulse at a rate of 55 to 80 beats per minute, which is the normal heart rate of an average adult. Scientists have found that the system’s response to drugs can be predicted: for example, after half an hour of exposure to isoproterenol, which treats bradycardia, the "heartbeat" on the chip increased from 55 to 124 beats. The device is proposed to be used to test reactions to drugs, so that animal experiments can be dispensed with.
"The Cardiac Microphysiology System is designed so that the silicon base replicates the arrangement and positioning of tissues in the human heart. Using a cone-shaped tube, scientists loaded the right number of layers into the base. The microchannels allow to mimic the process of metabolism of nutrients and drugs in human tissues.
Because of the inability to test a drug in humans early on, drug development may end up going nowhere. On average, it costs $5 billion to create a new drug in the United States, 60% of which is spent on research and development. Using a human organ model would cut costs and reduce the cost of bringing a drug to market. There is an alternative in the form of animal organs, but Berkeley scientists point out the problems of this method: for example, due to differences in the structure of ion channels between human and animal hearts, the electric current is conducted with different intensity, and this is not the only difference that will be revealed during drug testing. Scientists see a distinct advantage in microchip organ models.