Chip and “Dip”

Chip and “Dip”

Mari Yamamoto

No, we’re not talking about the popular party food. In this case, “dip” is the acronym for designed islet platform, and “chip” refers to the innovative technique, “organ-on-a-chip”, which was designed to research potential drugs to treat diabetes. Read on to take a further look at this novel platform. 

Insphero AG and the Bioengineering Lab at ETH Zürich in Switzerland have reported success in their collaboration to develop the use of “3D InsightTM Human Islet Microtissues” in combination with a hanging-drop microfluidic system. The chip uses human cells to mimic an organ, which is used to test drugs outside of the body. The researchers’ collaboration is clearly the key to their success, with ETH Zürich managing the engineering of the organ-​on-chip tests and InSphero prepping the microtissues. In an interview, research leaders expressed their desire to make their technology more accessible for future use and to  assist diabetes researchers in finding new drugs and  deeper insights into islet biology.

This technology was created as a better way to study insulin secretion, which is critical in gaining a better understanding of both T1D pathogenesis and potential T1D drugs. The goal was to create a miniaturized platform superior to  the islet perifusion ones already in use that have lower secretion resolution due to their use of multiple islets. Here are some more details on the design from their paper published earlier this year

  • The microfluidic platform is ideal because it allows for single cell usage and control of very small volumes of liquid.
  • The chip is completely open and uses hanging-drop technology to obtain the precise levels of control required. 
  • The islet microtissues used proved to be a highly functional and viable human islet model with strong GSIS.

Other Chips 

Researchers in Miami also developed a chip model in earlier research, a fluidic platform made of plastic material. The platform was tested for perfusion of islets, hormone secretion, and live cell imaging. The model also proved useful for optogenetic studies. The researchers hope that the platform will open possibilities for drug testing in vitro, and even for extension to organ mimics. 


  • Technology Networks. (2020, May 19). Harnessing Organ-on-a-chip Solutions for Advancing Diabetes Drug Discovery. Retrieved August 27, 2020, from
  • Johnson, M. (n.d.). Organ-on-a-chip for diabetes drug discovery. Retrieved August 27, 2020, from
  • Misun, P. M., Yesildag, B., Forschler, F., Neelakandhan, A., Rousset, N., Biernath, A., . . . Frey, O. (2020). In Vitro Platform for Studying Human Insulin Release Dynamics of Single Pancreatic Islet Microtissues at High Resolution. Advanced Biosystems, 4(3), 1900291. doi:10.1002/adbi.201900291
  • Yesildag, B., Perdue, N., Mir-Coll, J., Biernath, A., Neelakandhan, A., Forschler, F., . . . Wesley, J. D. (2019). 1727-P: A Novel Islet-Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cell Coculture Model for Studying Type 1 Diabetes. Diabetes, 68(Supplement 1). doi:10.2337/db19-1727-p