Nervous gut and the road to colorectal cancer

Musa Idris
Pathology department, Maastricht University
Clinical Genetics department Erasmus Medical Centrum

Destination of the trip:
Enteric Nervous System in Gut and Brain Disorders group (TENS), INSERM institute, Nantes, France.

Length of the stay abroad:
One month, between 27th August and 25th September.

Goal of the visit:
In my PhD project we are studying the interaction between the enteric nervous system and colorectal cancer. Few in vitro models, if any, exist to study this relation. We aim to developing an innovative multilayered colorectal cancer organoid model including epithelium, mesenchyme and enteric neuroglia. To learn the techniques essential for making this model I visited TENS lab which is experienced in making non-cancerous multilayered intestinal organoids and took part in developing this model early in 2017 .

I learned how to handle the delicate induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). I also managed to make high quality intestinal organoids and enteric neural crest cells that (which are the progenitors of the enteric nervous system). Lastly I learned how to make the multilayered intestinal organoids including the enteric nervous system. The trip also enlarged my research network and emphasized on the collaboration between the 2 laboratories in Nantes and in Maastricht. Having set this collaboration, I can benefit from their experience in organoids field helping me troubleshooting while developing my cancer organoid model.

Personal impression:
Nantes hospital and the research institute INSERM reside next to the river Loir, surrounded by big green spaces just enough to give you the feeling of the living in a city and in a countryside. People there are nice, and I had the feeling of being safe in the city. The laboratory staff in INSERM were quite cooperative and willing to help, and I believe they were a reflection of the society in their lovely city of Nantes. Me having traveled to INSERM institute gave me the opportunity to grow on a professional and a personal level. I learned how to work in different research settings (new techniques), moreover I had the opportunity to build on other valuable academic skills as collaborating and independent conceptual thinking. Finally, I also learned more about the French way of living and its culture.

[1] Workman MJ, Mahe MM, Trisno S, Poling HM, Watson CL, Sundaram N, Chang CF, Schiesser J, Aubert P, Stanley EG, Elefanty AG, Miyaoka Y, Mandegar MA, Conklin BR, Neunlist M, Brugmann SA, Helmrath MA, Wells JM. Engineered human pluripotent-stem-cell-derived intestinal tissues with a functional enteric nervous system. Nat Med. 2017 Jan;23(1):49-59. doi: 10.1038/nm.4233. Epub 2016 Nov 21. PMID: 27869805; PMCID: PMC5562951.