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BioMEMS Technology for Artificial Organs (invited presentation)

J. Borenstein
Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, US

Keywords: bioMEMS


Early applications of BioMEMS and microfluidics technologies for the life sciences have been focused on tools for laboratory research and diagnostics. These advances in laboratory systems are beginning to have a major impact in drug discovery, screening and the assessment of safety of new compounds, as well as in basic discovery and as probes to explore fundamental mechanisms at the cellular and subcellular levels. While these products are experiencing rapid growth due to their low cost, ease of use and modularity in many applications, the ultimate potential of BioMEMS technologies for medicine will be realized by more complex, powerful and integrated systems capable of augmenting or replacing organ function. Microfluidics-based approaches are now being applied towards the development of organ assist and replacement systems for liver, kidney and lung, as well as for other tissue and organ systems with complex architectures. These platforms represent a convergence of technologies including computational fluid dynamics and biomimetic designs, a range of micro and nanofabrication techniques, and a host of novel materials platforms suitable for contact with blood, cells and long-term implantation in the body. The principal challenges associated with these platforms include the ability to house cells and maintain their function in an artificial organ, materials compatibility with blood, and scaling of devices to the size required for human clinical applications. This latter challenge represents a paradigm shift in scaling from the primary focus of microfluidics and BioMEMS technology towards lab-on-a-chip systems. Currently, microfluidic systems designed to mimic organ structure and function are being developed, along with novel fabrication techniques suitable for formation of artificial vascular networks and other critical organ structures. Functions such as filtration and gas transport are also being incorporated into these prototype organ assist devices for specific applications. Longer-term regenerative medicine applications are focusing on the integration of cells and maintenance of cellular function in these devices, and are leveraging advances in microfabrication and nanofabrication technology. For instance, technologies for nanostructuring scaffold surfaces to generate topographic cues for stem cell differentiation and vascularization have also been demonstrated. Recent progress in these areas is leading to the hope that these systems will ultimately provide patients with a long-term, potentially permanent solution that will dramatically extend life and increase the quality of life for those suffering from end stage organ failure.
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