Can We Build Organs? The Use of Complex 3D Cell Models for Biotechnology.

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This course is under review for 2021. Course registration will open to accepted students once courses are confirmed.

Course Description

This is a Course-based Research Experience (CRE) class that will provide students with the chance to propose, design and conduct their own research projects, working on topics and seeking answers to questions that are currently unknown to science.

Every day, twenty people die while they wait for an organ and every ten minutes another person is added to the organ donation list. In the pharmaceutical industry, drug development costs are an astounding $2.7 billion and still 90% of drugs fail to make it to the market. With the shortage of organs and the failure rate and cost of drug discovery, scientists are turning to tissue engineering. Tissue engineering offers the hope that one day an organ could be built from a patient's own cells eliminating death due to organ failure. It also offers the hope that these engineered organs could provide a more predictive model of how drugs may perform in humans, eliminating the cost and failures of traditional drug discovery. The question is, can we build better tissue models? Can we make a model liver that detoxifies drugs? Can we engineer a heart model that actually beats? Can we make a cancer model with the drug resistance and biology of a real tumor?

This course will give students the opportunity to learn the basics of 3D cell based tissue engineering. Students will participate in interactive lectures in which they learn the background, motivation, fundamentals and practice of 3D tissue engineering. Topics covered will include an overview of drug discovery and tissue engineering, the current models for 3D tissue engineering, and the advantages and disadvantages of each. Students will also engage in a hands-on lab component. Students will learn the fundamentals of mammalian cell culture, including aseptic technique, passaging cells, freezing and thawing cells, and how to make complex 3D cell models. Students will also learn many of the major tools used to assess 2D and 3D cell models including microscopy (brightfield, phase, and fluorescent), biochemical assays, basic immunology, and tissue staining.

As a CURE, each student will set out to answer their own research questions, Students will pick an organ, and based on literature review, will design their own 3D model of the organ. Students will then compare their 3D organ with 2D cell culture to determine how their organ functions relative to traditional 2D culture. In their design selection, students will decide which cells to culture, what shape tissue they will make, and what supportive cell types and media components they will add, Students will then use assays to determine which model (2D or 3D) more closely matches the in vivo environment. Students will analyze and present their work to the group.

At the end of this course, the successful student will have learned a number of laboratory techniques, be more competent at reading journal articles, and will be able to design, execute, and analyze their own experiments. Students will become more well versed in the current challenges of tissue engineering and drug discovery.

Specifically, students will be able to:
- Use appropriate terms to describe goals and applications of tissue engineering
- Learn aseptic 2D and 3D cell culture techniques and understand the advantages and disadvantages to each
- Complete literature reviews of current scientific advancements and use these resources to design future experiments
- Use microscopy and immunohistochemistry to answer physiological relevant questions
- Maintain a laboratory notebook
- Generate a new 3D in vitro organ model
- Predict experimental outcomes
- Critically analyze data
- Communicate scientific results

Prerequisites: Enrollment in this course is by special admission only. Upon acceptance to [email protected] students must then complete a CRE application. This course is open to advanced students 16 years of age and older who are rising juniors, seniors or will have recently graduated. Students will be most successful in this course if they have a strong desire to solve a real world medical problem using critical thinking, hypothesis driven experiments, and data analysis. Students should have successfully completed Honors or AP Biology. Additional coursework or interest in physiology and/or tissue engineering is encouraged.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEBI1000
  • Length: 4 weeks
  • Supplemental Fee: $300

Program Information

[email protected]

Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences, offering over 200 non-credit courses, one- to four-weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

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