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Friday, 01. January 2010 /

Artificial Gastrointestinal Mucosa

Project title:

Artificial Gastrointestinal Mucosa  

Project leader:

Sara Linden  

Financial support: 14'000 Euro    
Project background:

Gastrointestinal diseases are becoming more and more common due to lifestyle changes. Eating habits have shifted towards an unhealthy diet with fast food and unbalanced calorie intake. Other factors like stress or smoking may also support the development of (chronic) inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease. An estimated 2.5 to 3 million Europeans are afflicted with a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). As a consequence, a substantial basic research effort and search for new medicine is underway in academia and industry.  

Numerous in vivo studies were and are being performed to understand the mechanism leading to inflammation in the gastrointestinal-system and to test compounds that may provide more effective treatments. Many in vivo models of Crohn’s disease include a (long-term) exposure to either bacteria (like Escherichia coli or Citrobacter rodentium) or parts of their membranes (LPS) to induce inflammation which can then be used as a test system to identify compounds that are able to ameliorate the pathology. For the animals, mainly mice (but also rats, rabbits, sheep, fish or birds), this can be a very stressful and painful procedure since the inflammation causes cramps and diarrhoea. After a specified time (hours to several weeks), the test animals are sacrificed and the intestines dissected and analysed. The animal experiments are not only suboptimal for ethical reasons, but also because most pathogens cause a different pathology in animals than in humans.  

The group of Sara Linden received financial support from Animalfree Research for development of artificial gastrointestinal mucosal surfaces in the 2010-2013. The idea was to improve the in vitro cell culture so as it resembles the human gastrointestinal mucosa. Succeeding in this aim could result in a high amount of refinement and reduction of the number of animals being tested in this field. It might even lead to replacement because the model could be used in many types of research involving the gastrointestinal tract.    




Navabi N., McGuckin M. A., Linden S. K. (2013): Gastrointestinal Cell Lines Form Polarized Epithelia with an Adherent Mucus Layer when Cultured in Semi-Wet Interfaces with Mechanical Stimulation. Plos One 8: e68761.