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Biomedicine in museums

Lab-on-a-chip — a bio-Meccano for the transhuman imagination

By December 8, 2007No Comments

I’m nurturing a crush on lab-on-a-chip technology! I’m browsing issues of the journal Lab on a Chip,


(cover and inner cover of LOC, vol. 7 (9), 2007)

reading about all possible kinds of technologies of miniaturization for chemistry, biology, medicine and bioengineering.

My favourite topic is biomolecular motors, like bacterial flagellar motors (which cannot be used in vitro on a chip yet), kinesin linear motors, DNA motors, etc. Much of it is futuristic, of course: “Thus far”, says a recent review article, “the use of molecular motors as onboard devices for chip-based platforms is fairly limited” (D. Spetzler et al., ‘Recent developments of bio-molecular motors as on-chip devices using single molecule techniques’, Lab Chip, vol.7: 1633 – 1643, 2007).

But such sobering evaluations from the pundits cannot really curb my imagination. In my fantasy, I put a variety of biomolecular motors onboard hybrid material chips and implant them in the transhuman bodies of the future, where they do all kinds of microfluidic tricks, pumping signaling molecules around artifically grown organs, and so forth.

I don’t think I’m alone having such futuristic fantasies. Maybe lab-on-a-chip technology is a kind of bio-Meccano for the 21C ‘transhuman imagination’ (cf. Keith Ansell-Pearson, Deleuze and philosophy: the difference engineer, 2002, p.194).

Meccano, the classic assemblage toy kit, invented in 1901 and manufactured from 1908,


trained the modernist creative mind. (Not at all like Lego, the soft, plastic unit-size cubicles designed for kids at a time when modernism was already waning). Meccano was a serious kit, made for teenagers and grown-ups alike who dreamt of a utopian mechanized industrial civilization. Generations of mechanical engineers grew up with Meccano.

I’m eagerly waiting for DolomiteMicrofluidic ChipShop, Micronit Microfluidics and other lab-on-a-chip manufacturers to produce the 21st century counterpart of the classic Meccano for the garage biotech amateur market.

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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