At Sheffield Hallam University, Oana Voloaca will use a novel gut tissue model to investigate the influence of bacteria in gastrointestinal diseases such as crohn’s disease to replace studies in rats.

SUPERVISOR: Dr Melissa Lacey - Sheffield Hallam University

STUDENT: Miss Oana Voloaca

Use our novel Quasi Vivo® bioreactor system of the human digestive tract which enables an investigation of the impact of good bacteria on gut growth and function over a prolonged culture period (4 weeks). This mucosal lining has several cell types, including epithelial cells which digest and absorb food, and goblet cells which produce mucus which soften food and protect this lining from damage. This mucosa layer has 3D-finger-like structures called villi; these maximise the speed of digestion and absorption food.

This mucosal layer is exposed to over 500-1000 different "good bacteria". These bacteria help with the absorption of nutrients, prevent infections, reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and even influence mood. Evidence also shows these bacteria are important in the growth and function of the digestive tract.

Currently investigation of how the digestive system works and the role of the good bacteria is performed using small animals such as rats and mice. In order to avoid this we will create a cell culture model that brings together the different cells of the digestive tract with good bacteria to study how the two components of the digestive system interact.

This project aims to further develop our model of the human digestive tract, which enable us to study the interaction of gut cells and good bacteria over one month, and thus replace the use of animal in this research. This model could also be used for further research into digestive tract infections and disease such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and cancers.