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Coloured hydrogel enables visualisation of heart cell activity in organ-on-a-chip device

15 May 2022

Colourful Heart

If you raise your arm in the air, could the heart on your sleeve fall onto the chip on your shoulder? Heart-on-a-chip is actually a small construction that reproduces key mechanisms of the heart in order to test medicines quickly, and better understand the behaviour of heart cells. Simplifying the system while improving the accuracy of imitation and ease of use would widen the accessibility of the technology, broadening use and accelerating treatment development. A new approach employs a structural colour hydrogel – a material that changes colour depending on shape – on the reverse of a sheet of aligned nanotubes, on which heart cells grow. The shape and conductive properties of the sheet allow heart cells to align neatly and beat in time with each other, with a brilliant colour change accompanying each sheet-folding beat (pictured). It’s a living, beating, visual testing platform for a wide range of diseases and treatments.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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