Sustainable plastic organ chips hit the news

26 November 2019

Dr Maiwenn Kersaudy-Kerhoas and Alfredo Ongaro working in the lab with PLA
Dr Maiwenn Kersaudy-Kerhoas and Alfredo Ongaro working in the lab with PLA

Organ-on-a-Chip Technologies Network funded research based at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, was in the spotlight on BBC Radio Scotland this November. This exciting collaborative project led by Dr Maiwenn Kersaudy-Kerhoas, provided sabbatical funding for Alfredo Ongaro to work on a method of using a plastic, derived from plants, to produce organs on chips.

The research is driven by the need to find a material that is both more sustainable and more stable (less interactive with molecules) than current plastics used in fabricating chips. The plastic of choice as an alternative substrate material by this team is Polyactic acid (PLA) – also known for its biodegradable properties in products ranging from medical implants to coffee cup lids.

The research undertaken by the team has resulted in transforming PLA for use to create transparent chip prototypes. The next stage will be mass production and the team already has links to industry through its collaborative partners.

Heriot-Watt's work is a collaboration with colleagues from the University of Leeds and the University of Rome Tor Vergata, along with industry partners Microfluidic ChipShop and Micronit.

Alfredo Ongaro felt the Network’s funding really made a difference: “I am personally very grateful that the Network supported my research. I think the sabbatical funding helped a lot to boost the project.”

Research page

BBC Radio Scotland article

BBC Radio Scotland podcast  - starts around 33rd minute.


The network is part of a major new Research Councils UK (RCUK) venture called Technology Touching Life [1] involving joint research council funding, which aims to foster interdisciplinary research into innovative technology in the health and life sciences.

If you are interested to find out more about the network, please visit our website

Updated by: Julia Coffey