Body on A Chip

Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) is leading a unique $24 million federally-funded project to develop a "body on a chip" that will be used to model the body's response to harmful chemical and biological agents and develop potential treatments.

Research Significance

The “body on a chip” research will accelerate the development of antidotes to chemical and biological weapons such as sarin or ricin.

Research Approach and Goals

The goal is to build a miniaturized system of human organs to model the body's responses to harmful agents and develop potential therapies.

The project involves using human cells to create tiny organ-like structures that mimic the function of the heart, liver, lung and blood vessels. Placed on a 2-inch chip, these structures will be connected to a system of fluid channels and sensors to provide online monitoring of individual organs and the overall organ system.

The circulating blood substitute will keep the cells alive and can be used to introduce chemical or biological agents, as well as potential therapies, into the system. Hollow channels will automatically guide the toxins or therapies that are being evaluated from one tissue to the next, and sensors will measure real-time temperature, oxygen levels, pH and other factors.

Research Highlights and Innovation

While the idea of culturing 3D human tissue on a chip is not new, this will be one of the first efforts to combine several organs in the same device to model the human response to chemical toxins or biological agents.


The one-of-a-kind 3D printer at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center will be used to print the organoids onto the chip. Other partners on the project—and the expertise they will contribute—are:

  • Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston – Micro- and nanoscale bioengineering devices for controlling cellular behavior.
  • University of Michigan – Microscale models of the body and biomolecular devices and technologies for high-throughput drug testing.
  • The U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center – Chemical warfare agent research, development, engineering and testing.
  • Morgan State University – Laboratory testing of cell cultures to identify the ideal blood surrogate.
  • The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health – Toxicity testing and identification.

In The News

'Body on a chip' uses 3D printed organs to test vaccines  BBC News
Tiny 3-D-Printed Organs Aim for "Body on a Chip"   Scientific American