Abstract: The gut-brain-axis is a complex bi-directional communication pathway between the gastrointestinal tract, the enteric nervous system (ENS), and the central nervous system (CNS) that is implicated in not only gastrointestinal function, but also cognitive tasks like memory and decision making. Gastrointestinal flora has also been implicated in alterations of brain function and behavior, however, mechanisms behind the gut-to-brain communication remain poorly understood. To investigate the mechanisms for epithelial/neural interactions in the gastrointestinal tract and understand the impact of alterations in neural activity in response to intestinal contents, we are developing in vitro humanized culture models of the enteric-gut axis. These platforms, termed “Organs-on-chips,” have generated interest from academia and industry as these physiological models may augment drug and basic biological discoveries. However, the lack of rapid, scalable, and facile manufacturing techniques may limit the widespread use of organs-on-chips. Here I will discuss a novel laser-cut and assembly-based fabrication method for simple, and cost-effective thermoplastic organ-chips. It has also been proposed that seeding patient derived cells will enable personalized medicine, but current intestine-on-a-chip models utilize immortalized cells and do not include support cells such as enteric neurons. Finally, I will discuss the culture and differentiation of a primary, human epithelial monolayer from intestinal organoids for future on chip studies that recapitulate the heterogeneous gut population, and the impact of trophic cross-talk between the epithelium and enteric populations in static models.
Biography: Dr. Abigail Koppes joined the department of Chemical Engineering at Northeastern University in 2014 where her group, the Advanced Biomaterials for Neuroengineering Laboratory (ABNEL), harnesses biochemical engineering methods to address challenges in nervous system disorders and dysfunction. She was the recipient of the NIH R21 Trailblazer in 2017 and is a co-investigator on an NIH Biomedical Research Partnership R01 between Northeastern, MIT, and Boston Children’s Hospital. She received her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York in 2013. Her doctoral research with Dr. Deanna Thompson focused on using electrical stimulation to manipulate neural and supportive glial cell behavior for improved repair following peripheral nervous system injuries. In 2007, Dr. Koppes spent a year at the Cleveland Clinic with Dr. Shuvo Roy’s BioMEMs group creating self-assembled monolayers to reduce blood protein adsorption for use in a miniaturized bioartificial kidney. In 2013, Dr. Koppes joined the Advanced Drug Delivery Research Laboratory with Dr. Rebecca Carrier as the Northeastern University NSF ADVANCE Future Faculty Fellow and held a joint appointment at Schepen’s Eye Research Institute and Harvard Medical School with Dr. Michael Young. Dr. Koppes was also a visiting scientist in Dr. Douglas Lauffenburger’s Molecular Cell Bioengineering group at MIT. Dr. Koppes also enjoys teaching Transport Lab I (Unit Operations I) for sophomore and middler engineers and mentoring undergraduates in the laboratory.