Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Semi Colon

Lab model of intestine cellular structure complete with a mucus lining

08 January 2020

Semi Colon

Our gut plays host to a complex community of microorganisms, supporting many essential functions but also presenting risks from potential pathogens. To protect our tissues, the gut lining is coated in mucus, produced by specialised goblet cells. More than just a slimy coating, the mucus has structure, with an inner layer that completely excludes microbes, and a more permeable outer layer. Until recently, this bi-layered structure couldn't be reproduced in the laboratory, making mucus difficult to study. Yet scientists have now succeeded in culturing colon cells to re-create a miniature version of the gut lining, dubbed Colon Chip (pictured, with cell nuclei in blue, mucus granules in purple, and a brush border of microvilli, tiny cellular protrusions, in white). Effectively replicating the organisation of the human colon lining, it enables the production of a properly-structured mucus layer, providing new opportunities to examine the role of mucus in intestinal diseases.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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