Consensual working definition established by the European ORCHID vision group on 23 May 2018 in Stuttgart.

“An Organ-on-Chip (OoC) is a fit-for-purpose microfluidic device, containing living engineered organ substructures in a controlled microenvironment, that recapitulates one or more aspects of the organ’s dynamics, functionality and (patho)physiological response in vivo under real-time monitoring”

OoC can be classified into
2 distinct types

Single-organ systems

emulating key functions of single tissues or organs.

Multi-organ systems

combining multiple organ/OoC to reproduce the systemic interactions that occur in vivo.

Main applications

Applications in preclinical pharmacology and toxicology are the early,
most visible drivers of the OoCs area. The Pharmaceutical Industry is
supporting the development of OoCs to improve safety and efficacy of drugs in development, and they are paving the way for personalised medicine
approaches by promoting the use of patient-specific cells. OoCs are also
used in academia to model diseases for a better understanding of their
mechanism and etiology. Furthermore, OoCs show a huge potential in the
near future for cosmetics, chemical and food industries to test toxicological
hazard and assess the risk of substances, especially because of their
highly stringent regulatory requirements.

Fundamental & clinical research
  • Study of human organs physiology & disease in a dynamic context
  • Biomarker and target identification
  • Personalized medicine (use of patient-specific cells)
  • Emulation of host-microbiome interaction
Pharmaceutical area
  • Drug development process: safety assessment, efficacy testing
  • ADME pathways
  • Ex-vivo clinical trials
  • Drug repurposing
Other industries
  • Test toxicological hazards
  • Assess the risk of substances (cosmetics, chemicals, agro-food and
    consumer products)

Expected benefits

Fundamental & clinical research
  • Improve knowledge of cellular and molecular mechanisms of action
  • Bring high value to industrial transfer
Pharmaceutical area
  • More rapid, accurate, cost-effective and clinically relevant testing
    of drugs
  • More adapted treatments to genetic diversity, ethnicity, sex or age
  • Cost-reduction of clinical trials
Other industries
  • Alternative models to face the stringent regulatory requirement
  • Replace animal testing, which is banned in Europe for cosmetic
    products since 2013

The technological challenges mainly concern the identification of new structural materials; the sourcing and co-culturing of physiologically relevant cells for all tissues and organs and the implementation of integrated physical and/or chemicals sensors. An easy-to-use technology would deliver robust and reproducible results suitable for translation across different laboratories as well as for industrial and regulatory standardization.


Need for the engagement of all key players and stakeholders in continuous
dialogue, and an investment of funding. Concerted dissemination and raise of
awareness about OoC’s working principles and role in both the scientific
community and the public is required in order to avoid overpromises and
expectations that might otherwise cloud or exceed the promising potential of the technology.

Organ-on-chip timeline

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