MIT biological engineers have created a multitissue model that lets them study the relationships between different organs and the immune system, on a specialized microfluidic platform seeded with human cells.
Using this type of model, sometimes called “organ-on-a-chip” or “physiome on-a-chip,” the research team was able to explore the role of circulating immune cells in ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory diseases. They also discovered that a metabolic byproduct generated by bacteria living in the human gut plays an important role under these inflammatory conditions.
“We’ve shown that now you can start to attack some of these really thorny, chronic inflammatory diseases by designing experiments in these organ-on-a-chip models,” says Linda Griffith, the School of Engineering Professor of Teaching Innovation, a professor of biological engineering and mechanical engineering, and the senior author of the study. “Now we have options to really decrease or increase the level of disease complexity, under controlled and systematic conditions,” says Martin Trapecar, an MIT postdoc and the lead author of the paper.