Skip to main content

Researchers build the world’s most sophisticated lab model of the human body

Printing a human kidney - Anthony Atala

In what initially sounds like a blend of Frankenstein and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, scientists at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) have built the world’s most advanced model of a human body ever created in a lab. Complete with a system of organs, such as heart, liver and lungs, that function a whole lot like the real thing, the body model was built to replicate as closely as possible the reactions of an actual human body. The difference? Each miniaturized organ is around one-millionth the size of a real-life adult organ.

“To create the model, tiny samples of human tissue cells are isolated and engineered into miniature versions of the human organ,” Anthony Atala, director of WFIRM, told Digital Trends. “They can contain blood vessel cells, immune system cells, and even fibroblasts, the cells in the connective tissue. We designed the integrated platform, or multi-tissue chip, supporting multiple tissue types under a common recirculating fluid. The system, depending on how many tissues it uses, can be designed to fit an area about the size of a deck of cards.”

The “body” doesn’t actually look like a body. Instead, it’s a series of chips and microfluidic devices. The purpose wasn’t to build a recognizable miniature human, but rather a testing platform which functions and reacts like the body it’s based on. For instance, each organ contains blood vessel cells, immune system cells, and fibroblasts, the cells found in connective tissue. The heart beats around 60 times per minute, the lung breathes air from its surroundings, and the liver is used to break down toxic compounds into waste products.

The aim of building this test platform is to better predict and test how a human will react to new drug treatments. This can be used to detect harmful and adverse effects of drugs during the development stage before they enter clinical trials in patients. This can help speed up the process of bringing drugs to market, while also lowering the cost of clinical trials and reducing or even eliminating animal testing.

As part of their research, the team tested the system by using it to screen 10 drugs taken off the market by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. When these drugs were tested in cell culture, animals and human clinical trials, no negative side effects were identified until they were being widely used by humans. At that point, it was discovered that the drugs could be harmful to people. The system developed at WFIRM was able to detect this toxicity, matching the damage found in humans.

Editors' Recommendations

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
Meet the game-changing pitching robot that can perfectly mimic any human throw
baseball hitter swings and misses

Who’s your favorite baseball pitcher? Shane McClanahan? Sandy Alcantara? Justin Verlander? Whoever you said, two of the top sports-tech companies in the U.S. -- Rapsodo and Trajekt Sports -- have teamed up to build a robot version of them, and the results are reportedly uncannily accurate.

Okay, so we’re not talking about walking-talking-pitching standalone robots, as great a sci-fi-tinged MLB ad as that would be. However, Rapsodo and Trajekt have combined their considerable powers to throw a slew of different technologies at the problem of building a machine that's able to accurately simulate the pitching style of whichever player you want to practice batting against -- and they may just have pulled it off, too.

Read more
The best portable power stations
EcoFlow DELTA 2 on table at campsite for quick charging.

Affordable and efficient portable power is a necessity these days, keeping our electronic devices operational while on the go. But there are literally dozens of options to choose from, making it abundantly difficult to decide which mobile charging solution is best for you. We've sorted through countless portable power options and came up with six of the best portable power stations to keep your smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other gadgets functioning while living off the grid.
The best overall: Jackery Explorer 1000

Jackery has been a mainstay in the portable power market for several years, and today, the company continues to set the standard. With three AC outlets, two USB-A, and two USB-C plugs, you'll have plenty of options for keeping your gadgets charged.

Read more
CES 2023: HD Hyundai’s Avikus is an A.I. for autonomous boat and marine navigation
Demonstration of NeuBoat level 2 autonomous navigation system at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show

This content was produced in partnership with HD Hyundai.
Autonomous vehicle navigation technology is certainly nothing new and has been in the works for the better part of a decade at this point. But one of the most common forms we see and hear about is the type used to control steering in road-based vehicles. That's not the only place where technology can make a huge difference. Autonomous driving systems can offer incredible benefits to boats and marine vehicles, too, which is precisely why HD Hyundai has unveiled its Avikus AI technology -- for marine and watercraft vehicles.

More recently, HD Hyundai participated in the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, to demo its NeuBoat level 2 autonomous navigation system for recreational boats. The name mashes together the words "neuron" and "boat" and is quite fitting since the Avikus' A.I. navigation tech is a core component of the solution, it will handle self-recognition, real-time decisions, and controls when on the water. Of course, there are a lot of things happening behind the scenes with HD Hyundai's autonomous navigation solution, which we'll dive into below -- HD Hyundai will also be introducing more about the tech at CES 2023.

Read more