Award-winning ‘organs on chips’ technology breakthrough could see the end of testing on humans and animals, says Hitchin charity

The 'organ on chips' development has won a prestigious Design Museum prize

The 'organ on chips' development has won a prestigious Design Museum prize - Credit: Archant

A Hitchin-based charity believes that new ‘organs on chips’ technology could spell the end for animal testing by researchers, and have major implications for pharmaceutical and other industries.

Dr Brett Cochrane, group head of science at the Hitchin-based Dr Hadwen Trust

Dr Brett Cochrane, group head of science at the Hitchin-based Dr Hadwen Trust - Credit: Archant

The advances which allow miniature versions of human organs to be created have just won the prestigious Design Museum’s top award for 2015.

The ‘organ-on-chip’ devices, which contain living human cells, are designed to mimic lung, kidney, gut, bone marrow and other tissues.

They were developed by scientists at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University in the USA and allow researchers to test drugs in conditions close to those found in a human body, at a fraction of the cost of animal studies.

The institute’s founding director Don Ingber said: “Organs-on-chips allow us to see biological mechanisms and behaviours that no one knew existed before.

Sythetic organs can be developed on chips, so that scientists can avoid live testing on animals or h

Sythetic organs can be developed on chips, so that scientists can avoid live testing on animals or humans - Credit: Archant

“We now have a window on the molecular-scale activities going on in human organs, including things that happen in human cells that don’t occur in animals. Most drug companies get completely different results in dogs, cats, mice and humans, but now they will be able to test the specific effects of drugs with greater accuracy and speed.”

The Dr Hadwen Trust, the UK’s leading non-animal medical research charity, has welcomed the breakthrough. Group head of science Dr Brett Cochrane said: “We send our warmest congratulations to the team at the Wyss Institute.

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“It is enormously encouraging that their work and the work of many other research scientists is demonstrating that cutting edge research can deliver better results than the outmoded and unhelpful research involving animals.

“We believe that organs-on-chips are an important step in ending animal testing and we wish the Wyss institute every success as they continue to develop, validate and apply their innovative technology.”

The Design Museum awards, now in their eighth year, celebrate design that promotes or delivers change, enables access, extends design practice or captures the spirit of the year.

Designs of the Year 2015 exhibition curator Gemma Curtin said: “This design is a great example of how design is a collaborative practice embracing expertise and know how across disciplines. Its selection as Design of the Year 2015 also signifies a desire to recognise and award design that can significantly impact society now and in the future.”

The Dr Hadwen Trust is looking for volunteers to help staff what is believed to be the first vegan shop operated by a national charity, which will be opening near its Portmill Lane HQ in Hitchin’s Churchyard later this month.

If you would like to be involved, or donate stock, call 01462 436819 or email info@drhadwentrust.org.

You can find out more about the project at www.drhadwentrust.org.

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