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NANJING - Chinese scientists have developed a "heart-on-a-chip" device to mimic the beat and contraction of cardiac muscle cells in vitro, which could replace non-human animal models for drug screening.

"Organ-on-a-chip" research mainly involves designing an inch-long silicone device that houses a network of organ cells, which can effectively model human organs and show results for drug tests.

A research team led by Zhao Yuanjin from the state key laboratory of bioelectronics at China"s Southeast University has successfully added a structural color hydrogel into a heart-on-a-chip and predicted its clinical values. Their findings were published in the journal Science Robotics in March.

The research was inspired by the biological properties of chameleons. Once the color hydrogel is injected into the chip, it shows color changes according to the contraction of cardiac muscle cells.

When related medication is adopted for some specific heart diseases, the conditions of the cardiac muscle cells can be monitored through the color-changing hydrogel, said Zhao.

"This device focuses on building new platforms for the testing and development of new drugs for safety and efficacy. It will not only replace human and non-human animal models for drug screening, but also meet the medical needs of individual patients in the future," Zhao said.


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