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Published On June 1, 2005

CLINICAL RESEARCH

Engineering Better Treatments

A cross disciplinary approach has begun to pay dividends for endometriosis research.

Linda Griffith was trained as a chemical engineer and became a pioneer in the sub-specialty of tissue engineering, a research field that re-creates biologic forms by using both man-made materials and living cells. These days, as scientific director of the MIT Center for Gynepathology Research, Griffith not only leads research but also serves as a kind of institutional cheerleader, inspiring scientists across many disciplines to join the center’s work to address endometriosis and other women’s reproductive disorders.

Among the recruits to that quest is tissue engineering itself. Griffith also directs one of the national programs that aims to create a “human physiome on a chip.” This effort to create a microscale model of 10 interlocked human physiological systems, incorporating human cells, would be a boon to medical researchers. Scientists would be able to use it to study biological processes, learn what goes wrong in various diseases, and test drugs in preparation for animal and human testing. 

Griffith made sure that a woman’s reproductive system would be included in that effort, in the form of a model endometrium. She is also working on sex-specific culture mediums to investigate the differences in male and female responses to drugs. In creating such models, she and other researchers are hoping that drugmakers may get involved in research on endometriosis and related maladies that have long shown few possibilities for effective treatments.