Nancy L. Allbritton is the Frank & Julie Jungers Dean of Engineering and Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Washington in Seattle. Her research focuses on the development of novel technologies for applications in single-cell analysis, micro-arrays and fluidics, and organ-on-chip and has led to 15 commercial products and formation of four companies based on her research discoveries (including Protein Simple, Cell Microsystems, and Altis Biosystems).
Dr. Allbritton is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Institute for Medical & Biological Engineering, and the National Academy of Inventors. She has received numerous awards including an NIH Director’s Transformative Award for her pioneering work in building functional microscale replicas of the digestive tract, the American Chemical Society Award in Chemical Instrumentation, the Ralph Adams Award in Bioanalytical Chemistry, and the Edward Kidder Graham Award for Leadership and Service.
Title: Microengineered Systems for Recapitulating Intestinal Function
Nancy L Allbritton, MD, PhD
Department of Bioengineering
University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Organ-on-chips are miniaturized devices that arrange living cells to simulate functional subunits of tissues and organs. These microdevices provide exquisite control of tissue microenvironment for the investigation of organ-level physiology and disease. A 3D polarized epithelium using primary human gastrointestinal stem cells was developed to fully recapitulate gastrointestinal epithelial architecture and physiology. Primary cells are cultured on a shaped hydrogel scaffold to form an array of crypt-like structures replicating the intestinal architecture. Imposition of chemical gradients across the crypt long axis yields a polarized epithelium with a stem-cell niche and differentiated cell zone. A dense mucus layer is formed on the luminal epithelial surface that is impermeable to bacteria and acts a barrier to toxins. An oxygen gradient across the tissue mimic permits luminal culture of anaerobic bacteria while maintaining an oxygenated stem cell niche. This in vitro human colon crypt array replicates the architecture, luminal accessibility, tissue polarity, cell migration, and cellular responses of in vivo intestinal crypts. Intestinal biopsy samples can be used to populate these constructs to produce patient-specific tissues for personalized medicine and disease modeling. This bioanalytical platform is envisioned as a next-generation system for assay of microbiome-behavior, drug-delivery and toxin-interactions with the intestinal epithelia.