The organ-on-a-chip was originally designed by Wyss Institute founder Donald Ingber and former Wyss technology development fellow Dan Dongeun Huh in 2010. Last year, Harvard's scientists created a company called Emulate to commercialize the project. Last week, Wyss signed a deal with pharmaceutical company Janssen to deploy the chips in the firm's research.
U.S. government statistics show that 891,161 animals were used in research in 2013, a 6.5 percent drop from 2012. Science organizations said that while animal testing has been key in giving us many modern medicines, researchers will welcome alternatives.
"These exciting new technologies show where animal use could be further reduced in the future. Nobody uses an animal thoughtlessly or out of habit, and researchers will welcome non-animal alternatives as they become available," Chris Magee, head of policy at the not-for-profit organisation Understanding Animal Research, told CNBC by email.
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Ingber and his team have also developed other organ-on-chips such as the gut, liver and kidney. The design beat off competition from Google's autonomous car and a project to clean plastic waste from the ocean.
The Wyss Institutes chips were praised by the Design Museum for "putting technology from apparently unrelated fields to work in new ways".
"The team of scientists that produced this remarkable object don't come from a conventional design background. But what they have done is clearly a brilliant piece of design," Deyan Sudjic, director of the Design Museum said in a press release.