Going against the natural perception of what a winning design should look like, this year’s London Design Museum Design of the Year is a microchip called Human Organs-On-Chips.
The beauty of the winning design lies in its potential to re-create modern medicine. Under the clear polymer layer of this microchip lie clusters of human cells that can emulate the function of human tissue or organs.
The creators of Human Organs-On-Chips, Donald Ingber and Dan Dongeun Huh from Harvard University’s Wyss Institute, wanted to eliminate the need for human and animal testing by enabling researchers and scientists to study the effect of drugs and treatments on “artificial” organs.
The chip could also give rise to an entirely new branch of medical research with individualised testing. Building an individual’s cells could be used to develop a distinct treatment based on a personal response to what is being tested, which means a future without navigating reams of possible side-effects.
A number of chips can be lined up in a machine, each one containing the cells of a different organ, which would enable researchers to test the effects of products or treatments on the entire human body.
Human Organs-On-Chips raises questions of how close we are comfortable venturing towards human cloning (not to mention of whether awards will ever recognise a well-designed chair again). One thing is for sure: the Design Museum’s Design of the Year has the potential to save millions spent on medical testing each year with far more accurate results and the added benefit of absolutely no harm being done to humans or animals.