Prof. Roisin M. Owens, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

TITLE: Bioelectronic tools to study the gut-brain axis.

ABSTRACT:Polymeric electroactive materials and devices can bridge the gap between hard inflexible materials used for physical transducers and soft, compliant biological tissues. An additional advantage of these electronic materials is their flexibility for processing and fabrication in a wide range of formats. In this presentation, I will discuss our recent progress generating 3D conducting polymer devices, to simultaneously host and monitor complex multi-cellular models of tissues and organs. Electrophysiological recording of parameters such as tissue impedance, epithelial and endothelial barrier tissue integrity and neuronal activity, are all made possible thanks to the conducting polymer devices and are validated with traditional biological readouts such as immunofluorescence or cytokine analysis. Building on our previous work that showcased a bioelectronic model of the human intestine, we are now incorporating elements of the microbiome and the immune system as well as the enteric nervous system. Coupling this model with our model of the neuro-vascular unit (including blood brain barrier) currently in progress, will bring us to our goal of a physiologically representative in vitro model of the gut-brain-microbiome axis. Alongside our in vitro work, I will show how our recent work on developing electronic probes to study the enteric nervous system. Transitioning from in vitro human and rat to in vivo rat models allows us to integrate electrophysiological recordings of neuronal activity with tissue impedance to really begin to unravel gut-brain axis signaling.

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