Seminar Series – Abigail N. Koppes, Ph.D.

Abigail N. Koppes, Ph.D.

Date(s) - 03/01/2021
9:35 am - 10:30 am


Abigail N. Koppes, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Chemical Engineering
Affiliate in Biology and Bioengineering
Northeastern University

Title: Engineered Models of the Enteric-Gut-Axis

Abstract: The gut-brain-axis is a complex bi-directional communication pathway between the gastrointestinal tract, the enteric nervous system (ENS), and the central nervous system (CNS) that is implicated in not only gastrointestinal function but also cognitive tasks like memory and decision making. Gastrointestinal flora has also been implicated in alterations of brain function and behavior, however, mechanisms behind the gut-to-brain communication remain poorly understood. To investigate the mechanisms for epithelial/neural interactions in the gastrointestinal tract and understand the impact of alterations in neural activity in response to intestinal contents, we are developing in vitro humanized culture models of the enteric-gut axis. These platforms, termed “Microphysiological Systems or Organ-Chips” have generated interest from academia and industry as these physiological models may augment drug and basic biological discoveries. However, the lack of rapid, scalable, and facile manufacturing techniques may limit the widespread use of organs-on-chips. Here I will discuss a novel laser-cut and assembly-based fabrication method for simple, and cost-effective thermoplastic organ-chips. It has also been proposed that seeding patient-derived cells will enable personalized medicine, but current intestine-on-a-chip models often utilize immortalized cells and rarely include support cells such as enteric neurons. Finally, I will discuss the culture and differentiation of a primary, human epithelial monolayer from patient-derived intestinal organoids for on-chip studies that recapitulate the heterogeneous gut population, and the impact of trophic cross-talk between the epithelium and enteric populations in static models.

Bio: Dr. Abigail Koppes joined the department of Chemical Engineering at Northeastern University in 2014 where her group, the Advanced Biomaterials for Neuroengineering Laboratory (ABNEL), harnesses biochemical engineering methods to address challenges in nervous system disorders and dysfunction. She was the recipient of the NIH R21 Trailblazer in 2017, is a co-investigator on a 2019 AHA Innovative Project Award and is a co-investigator on a 2016 NIH Biomedical Research Partnership R01 between Northeastern, MIT, and Boston Children’s Hospital. She received the 2020 BMES Rita Shaffer Young Investigator and CMBE Young Innovator Award in 2020. She received her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York in 2013. Her doctoral research focused on using electrical stimulation to manipulate neural and supportive glial cell behavior for improved repair following peripheral nervous system injuries. In 2013, Dr. Koppes joined the Advanced Drug Delivery Research Laboratory with Dr. Rebecca Carrier as the Northeastern University NSF ADVANCE Future Faculty Fellow and held a joint appointment at Schepen’s Eye Research Institute and Harvard Medical School with Dr. Michael Young and as a visiting scientist in Dr. Douglas Lauffenburger’s Molecular Cell Bioengineering group at MIT. At Northeastern Dr. Koppes enjoys teaching Design 1 Lab (Unit Operations Transport I) for undergraduate engineers and Design of Experiments and Ethical Research for graduate students, where she is a member of the DEI and graduate committees, as well as has mentored over 40 undergraduates in the laboratory. She also currently serves on the BMES Diversity Committee.