Harvard bioengineers have invented the first "Vagina-on-a-Chip." The inch-long device contains living human vaginal tissue and a microfluidic system to deliver a flow of "estrogen-carrying material." The aim is to test new drugs for treating bacterial vaginosis, a common infection caused by an imbalance of certain bacteria in the vagina. The condition can increase the chance of getting a sexually transmitted disease and cause pregnant people to deliver prematurely. "From Scientific American:
Vaginal health is difficult to study in a laboratory setting partly because laboratory animals have "totally different microbiomes" than humans do, says Don Ingber, a bioengineer at Harvard University's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering[…]
So-called organs-on-a-chip mimic real bodily function, making it easier to study diseases and test drugs. Previous examples include models of the lungs and the intestines. In this case, the tissue acts like that of a real vagina in some important ways. It even responds to changes in estrogen by adjusting the expression of certain genes. And it can grow a humanlike microbiome dominated by "good" or "bad" bacteria.
"Vaginal microbiome-host interactions modeled in a human vagina-on-a-chip" (Microbiome)