Thomas Ming Swi Chang

Cell Biology

Inventor of the artificial cell

In 1957 while still an undergraduate at McGill, Chang invented the world’s first artificial cell. His idea was to make tiny, ultrathin plastic microcapsules that could hold biological agents such as enzymes. If he could control the permeability of the plastic membrane, he could control what passed through the wall of his artificial cell, and thus mimic many of the functions of real cells. After earning his PhD in physiology, Chang developed the first artificial blood and a new cellular-based approach to an artificial kidney, liver and pancreas. Chang's work on a safe blood substitute gained recognition during the tainted blood tragedy of the 1980s and '90s, which saw over 60,000 people in the Western world infected with the AIDS virus. He has published more than 400 scientific papers and 21 books. While various drawbacks persist, Chang’s inventions have proved useful as temporary measures for clearing toxic substances from liver and kidney failure patient’s blood streams. Chang is a recipient of the Order of Canada.

Sources: McGill Office of Media and Public Relations

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