New Organ-Chip Can Re-Create the Cells of Your Intestines

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Cells of a human intestinal lining, after being placed in an Intestine-Chip, form intestinal folds as they do in the human body. Photo: Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute

Researchers at the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute have teamed up with Emulate Inc. to potentially change how patients are treated for debilitating, inflammatory gastrointestinal diseases such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome.

The project is part of the Cedars-Sinai Precision Health initiative to drive the development of new technology and research that enables personalized healthcare.

Researchers have already reproduced normal human intestine cells on an Organ-Chip outside the body. In the future, they hope to reproduce the intestine cells of specific patients and then test potential treatments on the chip.

Why it matters

Instead of exposing a patient to drug treatments that may be ineffective or carry harmful side effects, or risk infection with surgical procedures, the Intestine-Chip could allow researchers to find the best personalized treatment outside of the body.

The chips potentially could also be used for testing food-related inflammation to get a more complete picture of a patient’s intestinal health and food sensitivities.

“This pairing of biology and engineering allows us to re-create an intestinal lining that matches that of a patient with a specific intestinal disease—without performing invasive surgery to obtain a tissue sample,” says Clive Svendsen, PhD, director of the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute, which is conducting the research with Emulate Inc.

“We can produce an unlimited number of copies of this tissue and use them to evaluate potential therapies.”

Emulate Chip
Microengineered Organ-Chip, made out of a flexible polymer, features tiny channels that can be lined with thousands of living human cells. Photo: Emulate, Inc.

How it works

Cedars-Sinai investigators take small samples of blood and skin cells from donors. These cells are genetically manipulated into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), which are similar to embryonic stem cells and can produce any type of body cell.

From there, they use these cells to replicate the intestinal lining cells of the donor. These new cells are used to grow miniature versions of the person’s intestinal lining, known as organoids. Cells from the organoids are placed on Intestine-Chips, which re-create the natural environment of the human intestine and allow the cells to interact with immune cells, blood cells, and drugs.

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