The next step could lie in employing organ-on-a-chip (OOC) technologies. OOCs are a high-tech iteration of cell cultures. Traditional 2-dimensional cell cultures grown in petri dishes have the drawback of being largely distinct from the in vivo situation of tissues and organs. In order to get closer to the in vivo state, 3-dimensional cell cultures have been developed. In these 3-dimensional cultures, cells can grow in all directions and create a microenvironment that includes cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions closely resembling those of real organs. In order to create even more realistic models, the mechanical and chemical stresses and inputs also have to be taken into account. Tissues such as the heart or lungs are clear examples of organs that can only fulfill their purpose when in motion. This tissue motion results in shear forces on the cells and the extracellular matrix. In OOC lung cultures, for example, vacuum technology can be used to create movement patterns that closely resemble those of an in vivo lung. By combining several tissue types, it is even possible to create whole human-on-a-chip models, allowing for accurate simulation and evaluation of the metabolic and physiological effects of therapies. The use of OOC thus not only advances the field of personalized medicine, it also allows for a reduction in the need for animal tests in research and development.
High precision through sensing
The combination of these technologies and applications has immense potential. The possibilities seem endless. But all of the above applications struggle with similar hurdles. Paradoxically, these partly arise from their common strength – their high precision. In order to guarantee reliable and therefore effective results for patients, all internal processes and parameters must be precisely defined, monitored and controlled. These high requirements regarding precision and the sometimes miniscule sample volumes require advanced sensor technologies to monitor and control processes.
Such sensor technology can be found in Sensirion’s product portfolio. Sensirion is a leading supplier of environmental and flow sensing solutions. In addition to CO2, PM2.5 and humidity and temperature sensors, differential pressure and liquid and gas flow sensors complete the product portfolio. One example of such a sensor solution is the liquid flow sensor LPG10. With a footprint of just 10 x 10 mm2, it is easily integrated into even the smallest of medical devices such as so-called point of care devices. Apart from the excellent biocompatibility – glass is the only wetted material – the microthermal measurement principle with its high precision and speed at even the lowest flow rates makes the LPG10 a perfect solution for the above applications.
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