The heart-on-a-chip in the picture above uses the world’s most basic physics to accurately recreate the rhythms of the human heart in the laboratory.
While this technology is nothing new, the way a team from the University of Michigan were able to mimic the biological phenomena of the heartbeat is.
Previous heart-on-a-chip microfluid devices utilized mechanical pumps or hand-driven syringes to recreate bloodflow whereas the researchers from Michigan simply resorted to using gravity.
Microscopic, gravity-driven channels, as seen in the image below, were used to accurately portray the heart.
“One of our biggest challenges was building a gravity-driven microfluidic circuit that works reliably,” Sung-Jin Kim, one of the researchers, said to PhysOrg. “[M]icrofluidic switches need negative pressure to close properly. We eventually realized that we could control the pressure of the system by positioning the outflow well at a measured distance below the chip, creating just the right amount of pressure.”
Since the chip was first developed using CAD, it can easily and cheaply be constructed and re-designed. In addition, the team is able to recreate a variety of pulse rates and pressures on a single chip simply by changing the inflow of fluid from time to time.
The most obvious application for the heart-on-a-chip is to test new cardiac drugs before selling them to the public.