New technique creates organ-on-a-chip in a short time and at a low cost

A streamlined approach is proposed for the fabrication of organ‐on‐a‐chip devices with incorporated microactuators, by using an adaptation of xurography. This method can generate multilayered, membrane‐integrated biochips in a matter of hours, using low‐cost benchtop equipment

Original source: Visão

(Translation of the original article in Portuguese)

Researchers from the Institute for Research and Innovation in Health (i3S) (Porto, Portugal) developed a technique that allows to create “in just a few hours and at low cost” an organ-on-a-chip, an ‘in vitro’ model of cell culture as an alternative to animal experimentation.

In a statement, the i3S of the University of Porto explained that the study, published in the journal Advanced Science, allows “to accelerate a process that is usually extremely time consuming”, as well as “to facilitate the dissemination of the use of organ-on-chip systems”. The organ-on-a-chip system, an ‘in vitro’ model of cell culture in three dimensions (3D), appears as an alternative to animal experimentation in a preclinical context.

The chips, which are the size of a USB disk and produced in a type of biocompatible silicone, allow “to recreate in detail the microenvironment of a tissue or organ in a laboratory context, replicating not only the architecture, but also the dynamic conditions of the organ”, says Daniel Ferreira, first author of the study, quoted in the statement. “In addition, it is possible to combine these devices with cells from patients, which allows a unique approach in a context of personalized medicine”, he adds. According to the researcher, the technique now developed, based on xurography, uses, starting from silicone sheets, a cutting printer to remove the geometries of the chip’s perfusion channels “in a matter of seconds”. “In addition to the significant improvement in production time, the entire process can be carried out with low-cost equipment, reducing the 3 biggest manufacturing costs: time, cost and space to house the production equipment”, he stresses.

Through a biological model of the gastric mucosa, the researchers demonstrated that the devices produced by the technology are “biocompatible and allow to replicate the architecture and dynamic conditions of the gastric mucosa in an ‘in vitro’ context”. “Due to its modularity, low cost and ease of execution, this method is an interesting alternative to conventional manufacturing methods”, says Daniel Ferreira.

Despite the advantages of organ-on-a-chip systems, their manufacture is a complex process that requires specialized equipment, ensures the i3S, adding that the “search for new manufacturing methods that can reduce the time needed from conception to the final prototype has been a priority”.

In addition to i3S researchers, this study had the collaboration of researchers from the Instituto Superior Técnico of Lisbon and the Technical University of Vienna, Austria.

Ferreira D, Rothbauer M, Conde JP, Ertl P, Oliveira C, Granja PL.
A fast alternative to soft-lithography for the fabrication of organ-on-a-chip elastomeric-based devices and microactuators.
Adv Sci 2021;2003273.