Elena Naumovska about her gut-on-a-chip model
“Working together towards the same goal”
On the occasion of our recent gut-on-a-chip publication in Nature Communications, it’s time to meet Elena: an enthusiastic and driven member of our model development team. When Elena is not in the lab, she enjoys going to the beach or exploring new places. She loves the ease of traveling around in the Netherlands and Central Europe, after having lived north of the Arctic Circle for a couple of years.
As a scientist at MIMETAS, Elena is involved in the development of screenable gut-on-a-chip models. It’s an ambitious project aimed at establishing an inflammatory bowel disease model to test therapeutics.
“Inflammatory bowel disease has devastating effects on patients, and its etiology is complex”, Elena explains, “Environmental factors and immune responses both play a role, and many genes have been associated with genetic predisposition. Patient specific models are essential to study this disease and its multifactual origin increases the need for high-throughput tools.”
High-throughput gut models
Elena’s research shows how close we are to the large-scale use of gut-on-a-chip models for drug development: “I developed a method to differentiate Caco-2 cells into intestinal epithelial tubes in the OrganoPlate®. It only takes me four days to grow them, because perfusion and their 3D-configuration speed up the differentiation. In a Transwell® plate, which is considered the gold standard in drug development at the moment, it takes three full weeks before you can start your experiment to grow these cells.
The possibility to build high-throughput models in a limited time is shifting the way biological data is generated. Elena is amazed by this: “The coolest about this research is the pace at which I can collect my results. Our recent Nature Communications paper is based on no less than 18 thousand data points, which took us only two months to generate. That’s just incredible.”
Towards co-culture disease models
The next step of Elena’s project is to make her gut-on-a-chip models patient-specific by using primary material and adult stem cell-derived cultures. “I want to develop a perfused gut-on-a-chip model that develops inflammatory bowel disease. We also want to recapitulate the complex tissue configuration of the small intestine in the OrganoPlate®, by incorporating mesenchymal and immune cells in the extracellular matrix adjacent to the epithelial tube. I am really excited about this. It’s nice to work in such a friendly and talented team. We are all committed to the same goal, which creates a very supportive working environment.”
Transwell® is a registered trademark from Corning.