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Media invitation: Pioneer of organ-on-a-chip technology to speak at Imperial College London

The potential of microscopic organ-on-a-chip devices that mimic the way real organs work, so that scientists and engineers can model the effects of therapies more accurately, will be discussed by a pioneer in bioengineering at Imperial College London this week.

Professor Don Ingber, Director of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, will deliver the inaugural Bagrit Lecture, which will be held at Imperial on Thursday 19 May 2011, from 17.30 to 18.30. He will talk about advances by scientists and engineers who are using biology as the inspiration for the development of novel technologies for use in medicine, industry and the environment, and the challenges they face.

The lecture forms part of the College's celebration of 20 years of research, teaching and innovation in bioengineering at Imperial. The celebrations also provide an opportunity for the department to commemorate the ongoing support from the Sir Leon Bagrit Memorial Trust, which helped to establish bioengineering at the College.

Professor Ingber's most recent innovation is a complex, three-dimensional model of a breathing lung on a microchip that incorporates living human lung cells into computer chip technology. This device mimics how the lung works so that scientists can more accurately model the effects of environmental toxins on human lungs. Researchers can also use the device to monitor how the lungs absorb aerosolized pharmaceuticals and to assess the safety and effectiveness of new drugs.

In his lecture, Professor Ingber will talk about some of the advantages of using organ-on-a-chip technologies, which could accelerate the introduction of new drugs to market, provide an alternative to animal studies, and lower research costs.

Professor Ingber is also a pioneer in investigating the fundamental design principles that govern the way that molecules are structured into living cells and how these cells are integrated within tissues and organs during embryo formation, which is a process called "tensegrity". He will review his research into tensegrity and other findings that reveal how living cells and tissues change shape, move, grow, and self-heal. Understanding these underlying principles in more detail is enabling researchers to mimic biology so that they can develop technologies such as the organ-on-a-chip device.

Professor Ross Ethier, Head of the Department of Bioengineering at Imperial College London, says:

"Don Ingber's work represents the future of bioengineering. He is a pioneer who has helped us to understand how cells are designed. Now he is leading the way, using new microscopic fabrication techniques that incorporate human cells, to make devices to diagnose, understand and treat human disease. As we celebrate 20 years of bioengineering at the College, it is fitting to have such pioneer among us to discuss what the future holds in this exciting scientific field."

Professor Ingber has authored more than 300 publications and 50 patents and has received numerous distinctions including the Pritzer Award from the Biomedical Engineering Society, Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of In Vitro Biology, the Rous-Whipple Award from the American Society for Investigative Pathology, the Department of Defence Breast Cancer Innovator Award, and election as a Fellow in the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.


Contact: Colin Smith
Imperial College London

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