Engineers have unveiled what they call an intervertebral disc-on-a-chip, a world-first precision engineered toolbox for research into lower back pain, the leading cause of disability worldwide.

The disc-on-a-chip is a high-resolution 3D printed microfluidic device with three channels allowing the accurate simulation of the different regions within a natural disc and even the personalization of the model to an individual. It is a physiologically and clinically relevant in vitro model to provide an accurate, controlled environment for lower back pain research.

The chip can be used to replicate the degeneration of a healthy disc or alternatively be set up as a degenerated disc to test the efficacy of new pharmaceuticals or cell therapy. It enables performing cost- and time-effective lab experiments with the potential to enhance the physiological relevance of experimental data leading to successful clinical outcomes. It also offers the opportunity to reduce the need for animal use in the lab. (Image credit: University of Technology Sydney)

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