Human-Gut-On-A-Chip Model Offers Hope For IBD Sufferers

James Collins | Via Harvard | December 15, 2015

It’s estimated that as many as a million Americans suffer from inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, which cause mild to severe symptoms that at best can be managed and at worst lead to life-threatening complications.

While abnormal immune responses are largely responsible for these diseases, issues relating to gut microbiome, intestinal epithelial cells, immune components, and the gut’s rhythmic peristalsis motions can also contribute to and exacerbate symptoms. But until now, scientists have been hard pressed to develop new therapies for treating IBDs because they could not replicate the human gut microenvironment in the laboratory.

On Monday, the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University announced that its team had created a model of human intestinal inflammation and bacterial overgrowth in a human-gut-on-a-chip. The team, co-led by Wyss Institute Founding Director Donald Ingber and core faculty member James Collins, leveraged the institute’s proprietary human-organs-on-chips technology to microengineer the model.

“There is much to be learned about IBD, as well as how antibiotics impact the microbiome,” said Collins, the Termeer Professor of Bioengineering in the Department of Biological Engineering and Institute for Medical Engineering & Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “This technology enables one to study in an isolated and controlled manner the complexity of the microbiome and the role different microbial species play in health and disease. It is therefore a highly valuable platform for discovery and clinical translation efforts.”