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Organ on a chip, body on a chip, patient on a chip... patient medicine science?

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  • Organ on a chip, body on a chip, patient on a chip... patient medicine science?

    There was a multi-media article (video slides with audio track) on The Economist's "Babbage" which included comments on "Organ on a Chip" specific to lab testing using chips that have a limited number of cells that mimic behavior of organs, but on a chip. Idea proposed in the article/interview is the linking of chips together, to have multiple organs form a body (body on a chip) to see drug interrelationship on a body. (One example provided is a drug to help one organ may produce chemical toxic to the liver.) They go on to further predict application to move from "body on a chip" to "patent on a chip." With a patient biochemistry from their genetic information and epigenetic information duplicated into multiple organi chips to create a copy of their "body" we could actually see patient medicine turn into real science! (Real science: a system of testing where duplicate, but identical testing groups are created, and one is maintained as a control group, to compare each experiment against.)

    http://www.economist.com/multimedia?bclid=1294626183001 Sorry if you encounter a paywall, I tried to summarize the portion of the article that was relevant, so you would not need to listen if you did not want to, but have a reference for the source of information I used in citing this topic.

    I'm not requesting this as a topic, but wanted to bring it up if you are looking for things to discuss on the topic of personalized medicine.

    (I am not part of the BioHacking Village.)

  • #2
    Sorry for the late reply, been super busy.

    The Economist is great, as is the Babbage content. "Lab on a chip" is a term that you'll hear used in life sciences quite often, especially due to recent advances in microfluidics, MEMS, and nanotechnology. There are some older "lab on a chip" types of testing in that they're cheap/portable/quick, but these are more or less things like pregnancy tests. They often use a technology called ELISA. Lots of labs and hospitals that do clinical blood-testing have lots of tests that use ELISA, so they're not always cheap and portable, but they're quick and accurate enough.

    The example above is a lab on a chip technology that is simply a clinical test, so for diagnostics in human and animal medicine. They can also be useful for biosecurity/biosurvellience applications, especially the newer technologies. Just like the USA has drones that can fly at high altitude and detect nuclear activity, the USA desperately needs the ability to do this with pathogens, both naturally occurring (outbreaks and pandemics) and "man-made" (terrorism, biowar) as part of the biological weapons response/prevention/countermeasures program, which is run by various agencies including CDC, FBI, DHS, DoD, USDA (Agriculture biosecurity and food safety are two huge issues) and all those state departments of public health.

    But so for what I'm talking about doesn't have much to do with your article or personalized medicine.. ;)

    The organ on a chip and patient on a chip idea is great. Generally scientists have been doing this for a while on various platforms using various hardware and software, and its called "in silico" research, computer modeling in biology. The Latin terminology is similar to "in vivo" and "ex vivo" and "in situ", which all mean different things about the context of what is being described. Was this tested in a petri dish with a certain human cell line or an actual human? Or an animal? In situ pretty much just means in original place, where ex situ means the tissue in question has been removed from the body, like a biopsy. Latin is so damn useful in biology, even if you don't truly study it, you'll get a feel for some of it over time.

    I would caution people to get too excited about systems biology and the simulation of whole organs or whole humans (specific to their genome, even), as this is all quite difficult to do. I don't know how many years, if ever, until humans are able to model/predict biology incredibly well. That a huge aspect of bioengineering (DNA programming most of all) that makes it so difficult. In fact, we haven't really modeled neurons properly, as there are quantum effects going on that we are just learning about over the past five to ten years. Biology is full of nanotechnology and microtech, if you think about it. All that chemistry and systems/information architecture, it really does lend itself quite well to someone with a computer hacking background. And vice versa, sometimes knowledge of biology can give a computer security person some great ideas on new solutions to problems. I believe this is called biologically inspired design, and you see it in mechanical engineering and robotics lately, but it has already happened with computer security algorithms. Spam filters for example were somewhat based off how the immune system makes antibodies and how those antibodies respond to infection. The irony is that the least of this design inspiration seems to have happened in consumer anti-virus software... as far as I know those products do not contain any algorithms that inspired by, modeled after, or even mimicking a biological system.

    Micromachines and Nanobots... now that is an exciting topic. Oh, and brain computer interfaces. DNA printing... so much stuff to cover =]

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