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Scientists create a transparent artificial egg shells

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In an effort to make scientific research cheaper and easier, an array of ‘on-a-chip’ technologies
have been developed over the past few years. The idea is to use stem
cells to build a miniature replica of a real-life human organ so you can
observe its reactions to as many new drugs and treatments as you like. 
Image: ©Science China Press
The benefit is these little organs-on-a-chip offer a much more accurate
view of how real human organs might respond to these treatments than
testing them on lab animals would – and they do it much more cheaply,
and humanely.
With this idea in mind, scientists in the Department
of Biomedical Engineering at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China have
developed what is, essentially, an egg-on-a-chip. Made from a
transparent layer of olydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), which is a widely used
silicon-based organic polymer, the artificial eggshell is soft, and
mimics the shape of a real egg.
“Unlike its ancestor – the conventional ‘lab-on-a-chip’, which is
basically chemically based – the current ‘egg-on-a-chip’, intrinsically
inherited with biological natures, opens a way to integrate biological
parts or whole systems in a miniature-sized device,” the team writes in
the journal Science China Technological Sciences.
This
gives scientists an unprecedented view inside an egg, so they can
observe how an organism lives, grows, and develops in the earliest
stages of life, without having to subject its home to the rather crude
technique of ‘windowing’ that’s currently used in labs. You can watch the process here, it’s basically just cutting a hole in the eggshell and leaving a window that can be opened and closed at will. 

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The
researchers have so far been able to culture avian embryos in their
artificial egg structures for just over 17 days – about three days
before they would be expected to hatch. They’re hoping one of the
practical applications for their new transparent eggs is to allow for
blood and other types of organic fluids to be injected inside for early
diagnosis, and rare gene variations to be cultured inside.
It
might seem a little ‘icky’ to create an artificial embryo home, but
scientists rely on these studies to better understand fundamental
biological processes, such as the development of the central and peripheral
nervous systems. This way, at least they don’t have to poke a giant
hole in the side of the eggshell to see what’s going on inside.

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