The accomplishment was part of the "Body on a Chip" project -- a $24 million initiative in which researchers at multiple universities, led by a team at Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, are tasked with building "miniaturized" versions of organ systems.
The goal is to create systems that mimic the human body so that treatments and medicines can be tested before they're given to people.
“Miniature lab-engineered, organ-like hearts, lungs, livers and blood vessels -- linked together with a circulating blood substitute -- will be used both to predict the effects of chemical and biologic agents and to test the effectiveness of potential treatments,” said Dr. Anthony Atala, institute director and lead investigator on the project, in a statement when the project was announced.
The cells shown in the video are heart cells that were formed from stem cells. According to a spokeswoman for Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the cells started beating -- mimicking heartbeats -- because they were grouped together and in the right environment.
The tiny cardiac cells were "built," in part, through bioprinting -- which is when a 3-D printer is modified to "print" out different organ cells.
In the future, the different collections of organ cells could be key to reducing expensive testing on animals and help medicine or treatments be tested more quickly and thoroughly.