Geraldine Hamilton: Body parts on a chip

We have a global health challenge in our hands today, and that is that the way we currently discover and develop new drugs is too costly, takes far too long, and it fails more often than it succeeds. It really just isn’t working, and that means that patients that badly need new therapies are not getting them, and diseases are going untreated. We seem to be spending more and more money. So for every billion dollars we spend in R&D, we’re getting less drugs approved into the market. More money, less drugs. Hmm. So what’s going on here? Well, there’s a multitude of factors at play, but I think one of the key factors is that the tools that we currently have available to test whether a drug is going to work, whether it has efficacy, or whether it’s going to be safe before we get it into human clinical trials, are failing us. They’re not predicting what’s going to happen in humans. And we have two main tools available at our disposal. They are cells in dishes and animal testing. Now let’s talk about the first one, cells in dishes. So, cells are happily functioning in our bodies. We take them and rip them out of their native environment,
throw them in one of these dishes, and expect them to work. Guess what. They don’t. They don’t like that environment because it’s nothing like what they have in the body. What about animal testing? Well, animals do and can provide extremely useful information. They teach us about what happens in the complex organism. We learn more about the biology itself. However, more often than not, animal models fail to predict
what will happen in humans when they’re treated with a particular drug. So we need better tools. We need human cells, but we need to find a way to keep them happy outside the body. Our bodies are dynamic environments. We’re in constant motion. Our cells experience that. They’re in dynamic environments in our body. They’re under constant mechanical forces. So if we want to make cells happy outside our bodies, we need to become cell architects. We need to design, build and engineer a home away from home for the cells. And at the Wyss Institute, we’ve done just that. We call it an organ-on-a-chip. And I have one right here. It’s beautiful, isn’t it?
But it’s pretty incredible. Right here in my hand is a breathing, living human lung on a chip. And it’s not just beautiful. It can do a tremendous amount of things. We have living cells in that little chip, cells that are in a dynamic environment interacting with different cell types. There’s been many people trying to grow cells in the lab. They’ve tried many different approaches. They’ve even tried to grow
little mini-organs in the lab. We’re not trying to do that here. We’re simply trying to recreate in this tiny chip the smallest functional unit that represents the biochemistry, the function and the mechanical strain that the cells experience in our bodies. So how does it work? Let me show you. We use techniques from the computer chip manufacturing industry to make these structures at a scale relevant to both the cells and their environment. We have three fluidic channels. In the center, we have a porous, flexible membrane on which we can add human cells from, say, our lungs, and then underneath, they had capillary cells, the cells in our blood vessels. And we can then apply mechanical forces to the chip that stretch and contract the membrane, so the cells experience the same mechanical forces that they did when we breathe. And they experience them how they did in the body. There’s air flowing through the top channel, and then we flow a liquid that contains nutrients through the blood channel. Now the chip is really beautiful, but what can we do with it? We can get incredible functionality inside these little chips. Let me show you. We could, for example, mimic infection, where we add bacterial cells into the lung. then we can add human white blood cells. White blood cells are our body’s defense against bacterial invaders, and when they sense this
inflammation due to infection, they will enter from the blood into the lung and engulf the bacteria. Well now you’re going to see this happening live in an actual human lung on a chip. We’ve labeled the white blood cells
so you can see them flowing through, and when they detect that infection, they begin to stick. They stick, and then they try to go into the lung side from blood channel. And you can see here, we can actually visualize a single white blood cell. It sticks, it wiggles its way through between the cell layers, through the pore, comes out on the other side of the membrane, and right there, it’s going to engulf the bacteria labeled in green. In that tiny chip, you just witnessed one of the most fundamental responses our body has to an infection. It’s the way we respond to — an immune response. It’s pretty exciting. Now I want to share this picture with you, not just because it’s so beautiful, but because it tells us an enormous
amount of information about what the cells are doing within the chips. It tells us that these cells from the small airways in our lungs, actually have these hairlike structures that you would expect to see in the lung. These structures are called cilia, and they actually move the mucus out of the lung. Yeah. Mucus. Yuck. But mucus is actually very important. Mucus traps particulates, viruses, potential allergens, and these little cilia move and clear the mucus out. When they get damaged, say, by cigarette smoke for example, they don’t work properly,
and they can’t clear that mucus out. And that can lead to diseases such as bronchitis. Cilia and the clearance of mucus are also involved in awful diseases like cystic fibrosis. But now, with the functionality
that we get in these chips, we can begin to look for potential new treatments. We didn’t stop with the lung on a chip. We have a gut on a chip. You can see one right here. And we’ve put intestinal human cells in a gut on a chip, and they’re under constant peristaltic motion, this trickling flow through the cells, and we can mimic many of the functions that you actually would expect to see in the human intestine. Now we can begin to create models of diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome. This is a disease that affects a large number of individuals. It’s really debilitating, and there aren’t really many good treatments for it. Now we have a whole pipeline of different organ chips that we are currently working on in our labs. Now, the true power of this technology, however, really comes from the fact that we can fluidically link them. There’s fluid flowing across these cells, so we can begin to interconnect multiple different chips together to form what we call a virtual human on a chip. Now we’re really getting excited. We’re not going to ever recreate
a whole human in these chips, but what our goal is is to be able to recreate sufficient functionality so that we can make better predictions of what’s going to happen in humans. For example, now we can begin to explore what happens when we put
a drug like an aerosol drug. Those of you like me who have asthma,
when you take your inhaler, we can explore how that drug comes into your lungs, how it enters the body, how it might affect, say, your heart. Does it change the beating of your heart? Does it have a toxicity? Does it get cleared by the liver? Is it metabolized in the liver? Is it excreted in your kidneys? We can begin to study the dynamic response of the body to a drug. This could really revolutionize and be a game changer for not only the pharmaceutical industry, but a whole host of different industries, including the cosmetics industry. We can potentially use the skin on a chip that we’re currently developing in the lab to test whether the ingredients in those products that you’re using are actually
safe to put on your skin without the need for animal testing. We could test the safety of chemicals that we are exposed to on a daily basis in our environment, such as chemicals in regular household cleaners. We could also use the organs on chips for applications in bioterrorism or radiation exposure. We could use them to learn more about diseases such as ebola or other deadly diseases such as SARS. Organs on chips could also change the way we do clinical trials in the future. Right now, the average participant in a clinical trial is that: average. Tends to be middle aged, tends to be female. You won’t find many clinical trials in which children are involved, yet every day, we give children medications, and the only safety data we have on that drug is one that we obtained from adults. Children are not adults. They may not respond in the same way adults do. There are other things like genetic differences in populations that may lead to at-risk populations that are at risk of having an adverse drug reaction. Now imagine if we could take cells
from all those different populations, put them on chips, and create populations on a chip. This could really change the way we do clinical trials. And this is the team and the people
that are doing this. We have engineers, we have cell biologists, we have clinicians, all working together. We’re really seeing something quite incredible at the Wyss Institute. It’s really a convergence of disciplines, where biology is influencing the way we design, the way we engineer, the way we build. It’s pretty exciting. We’re establishing important industry collaborations such as the one we have with a company that has expertise in large-scale
digital manufacturing. They’re going to help us make, instead of one of these, millions of these chips, so that we can get them into the hands of as many researchers as possible. And this is key to the potential of that technology. Now let me show you our instrument. This is an instrument that our engineers are actually prototyping right now in the lab, and this instrument is going to give us the engineering controls that we’re going to require in order to link 10 or more organ chips together. It does something else that’s very important. It creates an easy user interface. So a cell biologist like me can come in, take a chip, put it in a cartridge like the prototype you see there, put the cartridge into the machine just like you would a C.D., and away you go. Plug and play. Easy. Now, let’s imagine a little bit what the future might look like if I could take your stem cells and put them on a chip, or your stem cells and put them on a chip. It would be a personalized chip just for you. Now all of us in here are individuals, and those individual differences mean that we could react very differently and sometimes in unpredictable ways to drugs. I myself, a couple of years back,
had a really bad headache, just couldn’t shake it, thought,
“Well, I’ll try something different.” I took some Advil. Fifteen minutes later, I was on my way to the emergency room with a full-blown asthma attack. Now, obviously it wasn’t fatal, but unfortunately, some of these adverse drug reactions can be fatal. So how do we prevent them? Well, we could imagine one day having Geraldine on a chip, having Danielle on a chip, having you on a chip. Personalized medicine. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “Geraldine Hamilton: Body parts on a chip

  1. This is one of those few talks I call marketing talks.
    When we bring problem(s) into a presentation we need to address solutions.  So the problem she presented was higher cost to develop new drug.  I do not think her device will reduce the cost to develop drugs.  It can help the process definitely, but drugs' costs are always going upward not downward.

    I felt like she's trying very hard to sell this body-parts-on-a-chip thing.  (pardon me firstly it is disgusting to call it that, secondly the device was far from body parts.  Calling it that, is boosting, promoting.)

    Misguiding information and overly optimistic promises in this talk.  She oversimplified drug output per $billion investment timeline.  1950 was just a few years after WW2.  Dollar value, regulations, diseases "available" for treatment, and a whole lot of reasons not well known to the general public all contributed to why new drugs has gotten much more difficult to develop and pass tests, and the trend will continue no matter what.

    Life expectancy, diagnose-able diseases, efficacy of treatments, are some of the many things we also need look at.  Life expectancy was just 70 in 1950, today it is over 80 for American females.  Smallpox, polio, measles are virtually eliminated in developed countries.  Today there are a couple medicines for "erectile dysfunction" (do we have such term in 1950?).  

    We are running out of simpler diseases to treat, and we take old diseases and make them new.  A simple knee pain now has more than 10 types of diseases disorders (more diagnosed problems are not bad but are not easier to treat neither).  We have attention disorder for children now, and more.  On the other hand we are trying to treat viral diseases or DNA related diseases which are extremely challenging for today's science and technologies.

    As for personalized drugs, well, be a billionaires first.

  2. Amazing technology!!!
    But there is something about it that just doesn't feel right…
    I think we have to be very careful what we make of this technology

  3. This is the most badass shit ever, seriously. I just really hope this project keeps moving forward in a possitive direction, for good use only…
    cough cough government cough

  4. "Ghost in the Shell" type future anyone?


    That's the answer. Its no longer a question.

    Its only a mater of time before we begin building more complex "organs". Having them work in conjunction would, by then, be mere childs play.

  5. There are a tonne of biochemical transmitters around that we don't even know exist. How Wil be able to explain the cause for the effect they see on these isolated chip environments??.

  6. Very exciting concepts for the health industry and many others. I can't wait to see how this could possibly revolutionize the treatment of diseases.

  7. Wow this so genus and simple! I mean it's probably is very complicated to figure out and engineer but it's so much more simpler than so many other things

  8. Wow!! This is mind blowing. If I was rich, id donate a lot of money to this research. These people should be funded to the max for the sake of humanity:)

  9. I believe this works for the early phases of a drug research, by eliminating at once the prototype drugs that don't pass this initial safety test. Further clinical trials will still be needed for those that pass. A human body as a whole is way more complex than what has been depicted in these examples. So many possible multi-organ or multi-systemic interactions, too many variables involved. In vitro still <> from in vivo.

  10. I can guarantee you that this will be insignificant, if not worthless in the field of biology.

    Advanced computer simulations will have much more variables and constants, with increased GPU power in the future, these form of experiments will be less accurate than computer simulations.

    These methods are made obsolete decades ago.

  11. I can guarantee you that this will be insignificant, if not worthless in the field of biology.

    Advanced computer simulations will have much more variables and constants, with increased GPU power in the future, these form of experiments will be less accurate than computer simulations.

    These methods are made obsolete decades ago.

  12. Interesting idea! But it seems that they are creating physical stress environs, I am curious, what about creating the chemical environment like ph levels, salt and juice levels which help in functioning and immune reactions? What about the neurological connections, the interconnections of nearby organs, bones, tissues etc which effect the  response of a particular organ? What about creating any preconditions or deficiencies, diseases which affect bodily responses? 
    If these can be done it will be revolutionary.
    Keep going! My best wishes. 

  13. I'm ashamed that i caught a boner while watching her….accents get me every time, but for what it's worth i appreciate what she is talking about

  14. Interesting talk from Geraldine Hamilton about what can be made on a chip.
    Further than a Lab on a chip, now we're talking organs on a chip.
    This could help designing and testing new drugs but it could also be useful for ex-vivo cell culturing where cells could behave more like how they do behave in the body. Structuring the chip walls to mimick the natural environment of the cell is indeed important to ensure their culturing. And being able to feed the cell with microfluidics is also a key factor that this kind of chips permits.
    We'll see how this technology evolves and progresses…

  15. Consider how production of the transistor has evolved. How large it was in the beginning, and how small it is today (and getting smaller). If we see anything like that development for a technology such as this, imagine the statistical plausability you could get for medical trials at an insanely low cost. Truly exciting…

  16. Cool idea, but not feasible. Actually, any physiologist would laugh out loud at it, because this complexity is nothing compared to real biological systems. You may argue that cell culture is even more simple. But it is much cheaper and well controlled. Not to mention that you can use transwells and flow chamber to do a similar job. You may also think you can make the chip better. But as long as it is not perfect, it's not better than a mouse. And when you make perfection, you create a human creature, reaching the bottom line of ethics. All you need is critical thinking and a better experimental design. 

  17. So , that's making us more closer to Allah because we know how he created us and no one can creat things like this exept Allah . Thanks Allah

  18. I think this is all amazing, but I can't imagine how are they going to get for example cells from samebody's heart, or liver without an operation. Do you guys, have any idea?

  19. Now this is the good technology advances the world needs and is what should government focus on. Not trying to take control of a harmless plant for benefit that was only put here from the Creator God.

  20. This is bloody brilliant! It might be that i'm a little late but this was a real eye opener for me. The amount of possibilities of this technology is mindblowing. I knew that this kind of technology did exist but I never could have imagined that it would be this elegant and beautiful. Complicated yet simple. 

  21. Use child molesters, drug addicts, murderers and some of these "unaccompanied children" streaming in across the border! And use those big unemployed fatties slurping up their "entitlements" to slam down soda pop and microwave chicken pot pies!!


  23. OK, I can live with the fact that it is easy to imagine … But until it become reality … Let there be imagination!

  24. 这款需要导电电极做线路。我司供应氯化导电银浆,导电银浆,碳浆等86-013922125860

  25. Wowing. Love this Video. TED talks really keeps you up-to-date once but changing in the world. Awesome ideas. It will save a bunch of lives in the near future.

  26. I am a PhD in medicine. A 3d produced organ with a kind of mechanical guided simulation could do much better job than a cheep. Also its pre and post examination would provide a much easier access and info.

  27. And what's the status of this technology now? Have they produced the millions of chips and started widespread research with those?

  28. Problem is, that the test the drug on the whole body. Drugs affect the entire machine, not just 1 part. Humans are not cars or computers. Because of how they interact and how a drug can concentrate in one location more than another, this will not be able to give the full picture. Its great if it stops heart disease, but its not any good if it concentrates and kills off your liver…

  29. Interesting talk but damn, who is the audio engineer for TED? I’ve listened to so many of these where there is that disgusting saliva/lip smacking noise during the presentation. It always seems to be women too.

    That’s it, TEDs audio engineer is a sexist. Lol

  30. Problem is that the data will be manipulated.
    If the corporation producing the liver cure will want to earn, they will reach someone who stores data or someone who hacks information from your body.
    You do not invest in technologies that change genes so that disease does not occur, but you give people technologies that you can control in 51%
    You want to continue to breed slave races, who is to be dependent on you. FFFF…K YOU !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  31. they didn't say anything about "brain on a chip". Too transhumanist or too impractical? I would think getting the brain on the chip would be the most important one as many of the typically perscribed drugs all usually have to deal with crossing the blood brain barrier.

  32. I took a bunch of these organs-on-a-chip, added some motors, a Raspberry Pi 3B+ for a brain, and made a miniature cyborg boy in my basement. I named him Chip.

  33. "I have right here a human lung on a chip!!"
    frantically starts waving it back and fourth so the camera can't see it

  34. 3:00 Props to the camera operator for at least trying to catch a decent view of the chip even though failure was inevitable in this situation.

  35. Just imagine the personalized medication we'll have in the future thanks to this tech!
    No more extensive lists of side effects for the drugs people rely on.

  36. How does it work funny You add this to A.I. we might have a problem lol….I mean I like this Idea but its like science playing God

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