This PhD study will use tissue engineering techniques to create functional healthy tissue to replace ulcerated mucosal tissue. As a first step this involves engineering an acellular (not containing any cells) mucosal sheet which will mimic the architecture of the sub mucosa (the layer directly beneath the mucosa). This sheet will act as a scaffold.

This scaffold will then be seeded using fat derived organoids or mesenchymal cells to test whether a functioning mucosa can result.

What is an organoid?A miniature version of a biological unit – in this study the colon.
What is a mesenchymal cell?An adult stem cell from bone marrow, capable of generating into new types of cartilage, bone or fat. In this study fat.

The research team

The study is being led by Dr Tahera Ansari, Head of Research and Development Regenerative Medicine, Northwick Park Centre for Medical Research.

Why create new tissue for the treatment of Ulcerative Colitis?

The lining of the digestive tract is made up of four layers – the mucosa, submucosa, muscularis and serosa. Ulcerative Colitis (UC) is an ulcerating condition that affects the topmost layers, the mucosa and sub mucosa. In around 30% of people with UC surgery is needed to remove affected colon during which all four layers making up the organ are removed.

This project is working towards generating functioning mucosa which can directly replace the affected mucosa and thereby preserve the other unaffected healthy layers of colon beneath this. It would therefore become unnecessary to remove the colon surgically, the new mucosa would instead be used to replace the damaged tissue.