The artificial human machines, each the size of a microchip, will simulate the response of humans to substances inhaled, absorbed in the gut or circulated through the bloodstream.
Early versions comprising an artificial lung, liver, kidney, heart and gut are already being used to test cosmetics, chemicals and drugs, researchers said.
“Farms” made up of hundreds of artificial human machines could begin replacing animal laboratories within three years, doing away with the need for experiments that claim the lives of up to 90m animals each year according to media reports.
“If our system is approved by the regulators, then it will close down most of the animal-testing laboratories worldwide,” said Uwe Marx, a tissue engineer from Technische Universitat Berlin and founder of TissUse, a firm developing the technology.
Scientists are already using individual artificial organs such as hearts and livers to test products, but these cannot be used on their own and a second set of tests have to be conducted later on animals to prove that the substances are safe when put into a living body where organs interact.
However, substances often behave differently in animals and almost half of drugs that pass the animal tests later cause unforeseen side effects during human trials.