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Stem Cells Could Create Humans-on-a-Chip

Researchers at the University of Florida have connected muscle tissue to the spinal cord using stem cells. The advance could revolutionize drug testing by creating micro-organs.

What’s the Latest Development?

Using stem cells, University of Florida researchers have connected muscle fibers to spinal cord tissue, which is essential to the brain’s ability to control muscle movement. The junction also plays an important role in Lou Gehrig’s disease, spinal cord injury and other life-threatening conditions. “With further development, the team’s techniques could be used to test new drugs or other treatments for these conditions.” Further down the line, the research could revolutionize how all drugs are tested.

What’s the Big Idea?

The stem cell research was funded by the NIH, FDA and DARPA, which is an experimental research and development agency operated by the military (they have also funded research on interstellar space travel). The goal of the research is to create “humans-on-a-chip”. In other words, “systems that include various miniature organs connected in realistic ways to simulate human body function.” Such chips could facilitate drug tests on human cells that would simulate an entire body before true human trials were ready to be carried out.

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