Lab grown 'intestine-on-a-chip' accurately models environmental enteric dysfunction
In children, the triple threat of poor sanitation, gut infections and malnutrition can cause environmental enteric dysfunction (EED). This inflammatory condition damages the gut lining, disturbing its ability to act as a barrier and absorb nutrients, as well as eroding its special projections called villi. Researchers now present a way to model this disease in the lab using organ chips. Organ chips mimic the function of whole organs. Here, chips were made using intestinal cells from healthy or EED patients. Exposing EED chips to conditions mimicking malnutrition caused changes in gene activity matching those in intestinal samples from EED patients. Fluorescence microscopy revealed extended villi (left) in both healthy (top) and EED (bottom) chips. In both chips, the absence of nutrients caused villi to erode (right), and impaired barrier function and nutrient uptake. However, EED chips additionally released inflammatory chemicals. Intestine chips can, therefore, accurately model EED for future studies.
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