The Wyss Institute recently announced two new human cell-based inflammatory disease models built on its rapidly expanding “organ chip” platform. Both models could speed the development of treatments for these diseases, and further reduce the use of animals in testing.

Using the “gut-on-a-chip” device first introduced in 2012, Wyss scientists co-cultured human intestinal cells with normal and pathogenic intestinal microbes, producing an in vitro model (viable for up to two weeks) of intestinal inflammation and bacterial overgrowth. These two disease features are present in a number of human intestinal disorders (such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease). Until now, it has been difficult to reproduce these disorders in the lab in order to test treatments for them. The gut-on-a-chip device “could allow breakthrough insights into how the microbial communities that flourish inside our GI tracts contribute to human health and disease.” The image below, from the Wyss Institute press release, shows how the cells in this microenvironment even reproduce normal peristalsis, the contraction/relaxation cycle of the intestinal walls that moves digested food down the tract.

The Wyss Institute also used its chip technology to create a human lung “small-airway-on-a-chip.” When the chips are lined with airway cells from patients suffering from such inflammatory disorders as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma, the physiological features of the disease can be observed and tested in vitro. As noted in the Wyss Institute press release, “Demand for such opportunities is especially high since small airway inflammation cannot be adequately studied in human patients or animal models and, to date, there are no effective therapies that can stop or reverse the complex and widespread inflammation-driven processes.”

Watch a video demo of the small-airway-on-a-chip below: