By Liz Boazak, Ph.D., Senior Engineer, Altis Biosystems
Many open questions pertaining to health and disease of the intestinal epithelium are challenging to address, owing to the complexity of the tissue and its multitude of niches. Monolayer cultures of Caco-2 cells, a commonly used human colorectal tumor cell line, are not capable of replicating this complexity. While animal models possess system complexity, it is frequently difficult to modulate and control the desired experimental parameters in in vivo studies. Additionally, the intestinal systems and diets of most animals differ dramatically from those of humans. The use of inappropriate model systems in drug development can result in ineffective drugs reaching clinical trials and the failure to investigate potentially
Advanced microphysiological systems can replicate aspects of intestinal complexity, such as epithelium self-renewal by stem cells in in vitro crypts or the interactions of microbes and intestinal epithelium mediated by a mucus layer. Availability of such models is key to progress in compound screening, disease modeling, and microbiome research.