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In vitro bioelectronic models of the gut-brain axis

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Theme: Brains and Machines

Tile: In vitro bioelectronic models of the gut-brain axis

Abstract: The human gut microbiome has emerged as a key player in the bidirectional communication of the gut-brain axis, affecting various aspects of homeostasis and pathophysiology. Until recently, the majority of studies that seek to explore the mechanisms underlying the microbiome-gut-brain axis cross-talk relied almost exclusively on animal models, and particularly gnotobiotic mice. Despite the great progress made with these models, various limitations, including ethical considerations and interspecies differences that limit the translatability of data to human systems, pushed researchers to seek for alternatives. Over the past decades, the field of in vitro modelling of tissues has experienced tremendous growth, thanks to advances in 3D cell biology, materials, science and bioengineering, pushing further the borders of our ability to more faithfully emulate the in vivo situation. Organ-on-chip technology and bioengineered tissues have emerged as highly promising alternatives to animal models for a wide range of applications. In this talk I’ll discuss our progress towards generating a complete platform of the human microbiota-gut-brain axis with integrated monitoring and sensing capabilities. Bringing together principles of materials science, tissue engineering, 3D cell biology and bioelectronics, we are building advanced models of the GI and the BBB /NVU, with real-time and label-free monitoring units adapted in the model architecture, towards a robust and more physiologically relevant human in vitro model, aiming to i) elucidate the role of microbiota in the gut-brain axis communication, ii) to study how diet and impaired microbiota profiles affect various (patho-)physiologies, and iii) to test personalised medicine approaches for disease modelling and drug testing.

Biography: Professor Róisín M. Owens is a Multidisciplinary Scientist working at the interface of Biology and Electronic Engineering.

Professor Róisín M. Owens is a University Lecturer at the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology in the University of Cambridge. She received her BA in Natural Sciences (Mod. Biochemistry) at Trinity College Dublin, and her PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Southampton University. She carried out two postdoc fellowships at Cornell University, on host-pathogen interactions of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in the department of Microbiology and Immunology with Prof David Russell, and on rhinovirus therapeutics in the department of Biomedical Engineering with Professor Moonsoo Jin. From 2009-2017 Professor Owens was a group leader in the department of bioelectronics at Ecole des Mines de St. Etienne, on the microelectronics campus in Provence. She is author of over 70 articles and a 2019 laureate of the Suffrage Science Award. Her work has been covered on many news outlets, including the BBC who featured her “human organs on chip” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99s1K0Ph3g4.

Research Interests Her current research centres on application of electronic materials for monitoring biological systems in vitro, with a specific interest in studying the gut-brain-microbiome axis. Her work on 3D biomimetic electrodes for hosting and monitoring human tissues was recently published in Science Advances. (https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/4/10/eaat4253) A second major research area focuses on integration of cell membranes with transparent conducting polymer electrodes to study drug and pathogen interactions. A recent publication validated the ability of novel antimicrobial molecules to penetrate membranes (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/adma.201803130)

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This talk is part of the Cambridge Neuroscience Interdisciplinary Seminars series.

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