A hands-free technology has been used to enable hands-on control of organs-on-chips. The feat, announced by scientists from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), shows that it is possible to combine the augmented reality of a Google Glass application with the approximated physiological reality of microfluidically sustained liver and heart tissues.
All that may sound unnecessarily complicated, but the BWH team suggest that their custom-developed combination of hardware, firmware, software, and—yes—Glassware is meant to simplify the work of researchers who use organs-on-chips to test drug compounds and study the physiological mechanisms that exemplify health and disease or even emulate healing.
It can be inconvenient to monitor the results of organ-on-a-chip experiments from a conventional desktop computer, especially when results must be monitored over the course of hours, days, or weeks. To make life in the lab easier, the BWH team, led by Ali Khademhosseini, Ph.D., took advantage of Google Glass’ ability to display information in a smartphone-like hands-free format by wireless communication and to provide control over remote devices via voice recognition commands.
The details of the team’s work appear this week in Scientific Reports, in an article entitled, “Google Glass-Directed Monitoring and Control of Microfluidic Biosensors and Actuators.”
“[We report the] wireless transmission of sensor data onto the Google Glass for on-demand data visualization and real-time analysis,” wrote the article’s authors. “Additionally, the platform allowed the user to control outputs entered through the Glass, therefore achieving bi-directional Glass-device interfacing.”
In other words, the custom Google Glass application permitted the remote monitoring and the remote control of organ-on-chip systems.
“Using this versatile platform, we demonstrated its capability in monitoring physical and physiological parameters such as temperature, pH, and morphology of liver- and heart-on-chips,” the authors continued. “Furthermore, we showed the capability to remotely introduce pharmaceutical compounds into a microfluidic human primary liver bioreactor at desired time points while monitoring their effects through the Glass.”
Essentially, the BWH team used the Glass to activate valves remotely and thereby introduce pharmaceutical compounds to organoid tissues.
“We believe such a platform has widespread applications in biomedicine, and may be further expanded to health care settings where remote monitoring and control could make things safer and more efficient,” said Dr. Ali Khademhosseini, the lead author of the study and director of the Biomaterials Innovation Research Center at BWH.
“This may be of particular importance in cases where experimental conditions threaten human life—such as work involving highly pathogenic bacteria or viruses or radioactive compounds,” added leading author, Yu Shrike Zhang, Ph.D., also of BWH's Biomedical Division.