If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.



Microchips track organ mimics

Embedding radio frequency chips within stem-cell-derived organoids could aid medical research

by Cici Zhang
June 4, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 23


A pool of human liver organoids with embedded radio frequency chips.
Credit: iScience
RF chips (black squares) embedded within fluorescently labeled organoids (green spheres) offer a new way to track and screen these tissues.

Organoids—tiny spherelike tissues that mimic human organs—can be used to test drugs to predict responses in patients, because they imitate organs’ multicellular complexity and three-dimensional structure better than cell lines. Tracking organoids’ origins is important during testing, but tagging techniques for tracking can be labor intensive and costly. Now, Takanori Takebe and colleagues at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center have integrated radio frequency (RF) chips into liver organoids, allowing wireless identification (iScience 2018, DOI: 10.1016/j.isci.2018.05.007).

The radio frequency chip used in this study is as big as Lincoln’s nose on the US penny.
Credit: iScience
The radio frequency chip used in this study is as big as Lincoln’s nose on the U.S. penny.

Each chip costs only about 10–20 cents, and they reduce total screening time from months to days. The biologists made organoids from pluripotent stem cells from 10 different human donors, some healthy and some with a liver disease. At an early stage of organoid formation, they placed an RF chip, which eventually sits within the cavity of the resulting sphere, onto the cells. These chip-embedded liver organoids don’t differ from chip-free ones in form or biological activities. They also function well under experimental manipulations like cryopreservation and pH changes. In a proof-of-principle screening using the RF chip, the researchers were able to distinguish organoids generated from donors with a liver disease. They worked with about 20 chips this time, but in the future they hope to screen thousands of organoids for drug testing.


This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.