By Chris Adams

One of the latest techniques in cancer research is known as “gut on a chip” – and no, that’s not a typo for overeating.

At the famed Institute Curie in Paris – named for Marie Curie, winner of the 1903 Nobel Prize for physics along with her husband and a colleague for their work on radioactivity – researchers are seeking to understand and treat cancer before symptoms even appear.

One way to do that is through “organ on a chip” technology, in which a microfluidic culture is created by using living cells to simulate the activities, mechanics and physiological response of tissue, organs and organ systems.

In a session with National Press Foundation fellows, Curie researchers Danijela Vignjevic and Stephanie Descroix described the methods used for recreating organs. Already, there are models replicating lungs, livers and hearts, and researchers are working to combine different organs onto the same chip.

With close collaboration between biologists and physicists, the new models allow researchers to create a model that replicates the complexity of the human gut. It will help them unravel things such as inflammatory disease, better understand the gut-microbiome interaction, and create platforms for drug screening.

Curie researchers also discussed emerging single-cell technologies and the LifeTime Initiative, a broad collaboration among European research institutes that seeks to understand how genomes function within cells and how cells form tissues and change as tissues progress towards disease.

Some 90 research institutes are involved in the effort.

“Research in the various areas is happening – but not in the coordinated fashion we would like,” said Dörthe Nickel, who is responsible for international scientific affairs at the institute.