September 12, 2014 – Infection and Inflammation


Anchor lead:  New models for laboratory research help understand infections and inflammation better, Elizabeth Tracey reports

Don’t be surprised if sometime soon your physician asks for a very small tissue sample from you to develop a laboratory model of one or more of your tissues.  Such a strategy, called a ‘human on a chip,’ is already in use in many areas of medicine.  Mark Donowitz, a gastroenterologist and researcher at Johns Hopkins, describes how his laboratory employs them.

Donowitz: These are spectacular models particularly for disease of the gut, particularly the infectious diarrheas.  They’re very important, they kill a lot of children.  We’ve already shown that you can use these models for rotovirus, the leading cause of death from acute diarrhea in the world, cholera, the main cause of traveler’s diarrhea, these are all easily, beautifully mimicked in these very simple cell systems, but that’s not where it stops.  If you biopsy it from a patient with celiac disease or colitis the mini-intestines continue mimicking their originators, so you can use them for disease models.   :32

Donowitz says such models will help bring the ideal of personalized medicine toward reality.  At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.