The technology required to create MetaChips and DataChips is largely available today. The use of biochips requires a high-throughput microarray spotter machine to place the liquid enzyme dots on the slides. The next step involves an optical assay system consisting of a camera connected to a fluorescent light source to take a digital image of the cell culture and highlight living and dead cells. Dordick says the ultimate goal is to create one machine that can carry out both functions. Researchers say the biochips may also be used to target different drugs to different groups of patients. "Ultimately, each person would have their own DataChip or MetaChip that contains their own genetic information," Dordick says, noting that most drugs on the market today are "one size fits all."
One way the DataChip can be expanded is to include different cell types representing different organs. In addition to the aforementioned cells, Clarks says researchers are now developing solutions containing cardiac, neural and skin cells. The company is also looking for ways to do more than toxicity testing on its chips. In the cosmetics industry in particular, the chips might someday be used in lieu of guinea pigs—both the actual and human ones—to determine toxicity as well as whether certain chemicals may cause allergic reactions or irritation in certain skin types.