Some laboratory rats may be looking for work soon, with reports researchers have developed a way to test medicines and compounds on silicon chips rather than live subjects.

By combining the organic material of specific organs, scientists have been able to create an “organ on a chip”, capable of mimicking the functions of a real body part and responding to experimental treatments just like the real thing.

The microchip substitution of whole organs is only just starting in a select few research companies worldwide, used mostly for internal diagnostics as health organisations are yet to regulate the novel technique.

At Merck & Co's labs in Boston, researchers are looking at using microchips engineered to resemble a diseased lung in their hunt for a new asthma treatment. The “lung on a chip” was unveiled in 2010, in tests so far researchers have observed an immune response to a lung disease on the chip which was identical to the function of a lung in full scale, it also showed textbook signs of pulmonary edema when the condition was introduced.

With more trials and developments the technology could outstrip the effectiveness of animal trials, especially when testing conditions which are unique to human physiology.