A team of researchers from Harvard University has created a gut on a chip that mimics the gut’s mechanical, structural, absorptive, transport and pathophysiological properties. That goes as far as including peristaltic motion and sustaining a bacterial flora.
The device is composed of two microfluidic channels separated by a porous flexible membrane coated with extracellular matrix and lined by human intestinal epithelial cells. Fluid flows slowly through the channels and the exertion of cyclic strain mimics physiological peristaltic motions. Under these conditions the cells spontaneously grow into folds taking on the structure of intestinal villi. The researchers were able to let a normal intestinal microbe survive in this environment for over one week.
The gut-on-a-chip could in the future be used to develop models for intestinal diseases such as Crohn’s diseases or ulcerative colitis, or could be used for absorption and toxicity studies of new drugs. The article describing the research was published in the latest issue of Lab on a Chip.