Scientists Created Startlingly Tiny Organs That Could Bring an End to Animal Testing

Scientists have created organs that are one-millionth the size of a regular human organ.

An entire system of miniature organs known as "organoids" has been created by scientists at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine. In doing so they have built the world's most sophisticated lab model of the human body. 

The whole point of the system is that these tiny organs can successfully determine if a pharmaceutical is toxic to the human body or not, which would also help put an end to animal testing.

Their findings were published in the scientific journal Biofabrication.


Researching and creating new medical drugs

Developing new medical drugs requires a lot of money, time, and sometimes many animals. It's even more disheartening when drugs that have cost a lot of time, effort, money, and animal lives have to then be pulled off of the shelf, as they can't adequately predict whether or not the substance will be toxic to humans. 

Now, a minute novel innovation may provide some huge answers. 

Researchers from the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine and Ohio State University have developed an entire system that replicates human organs in microscopic sizes. Everything from your liver, to your heart, and to your lungs are able to be recreated in tiny sizes so as to improve pharmaceuticals looking to run tests that currently require petri dishes or animals. 

The system was then embedded onto a computer chip. 

"We tried to make the organs very much related to how they look inside of you, very similar to how they would look on the macro scale if we were implanting them into you," study co-author Anthony Atala, chair and institute director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine told Popular Mechanics.


These mini-organs have been dubbed "organoids" and are 3D tissue cultures that are sourced from stem cells. To give an estimation of just how small these are, they range from the size of less than the width of a strand of hair to five millimeters

This isn't the first time researchers create organoids in a lab, Atala himself has been working on organoids since the early 2000s. However, this is the first time that they have been able to successfully prove that certain drugs are toxic to humans. 

Atala and his team focused on building a system as close to the real human system as possible. For instance, your heart pumps roughly 60 times per minute, as does the organoid heart. The human liver contains five major cell types, as does the organoid one. 

Once the organoids were grown the researchers could run then tests on them. This is where animal testing could be eradicated. 

Atala mentioned "We can test chemotherapies to see which would work best for a given patient. This is great for personalized medicine." This is a huge step forward in the field of medicine. 

Follow Us on

Stay on top of the latest engineering news

Just enter your email and we’ll take care of the rest:

By subscribing, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. You may unsubscribe at any time.