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article imageStudy of human health requires artificial gut

By Tim Sandle     Oct 6, 2016 in Science
To study the effects of the microbiome on human health and disease, microbiologists have developed an artificial human gut. The bio-structure will allow experiments to run.
Considerable research has taken place about the impact of the microbiome (the community of microorgaisms and their genetic interactions in association with the human body) and health and disease. Digital Journal has run several articles on this important subject (see, for example, “Can modifying the microbiome reduce autism?”)
Studies to date have focused on metagenomic analyses, looking at types and numbers of different microorganisms in relation to the presence or absence of specific diseases in relation to different individuals. Such analysis provides association but it does not reveal the cause of a condition (that is why a certain microorganism might cause a particular health condition.)
To explore the cause and effect in relation to the microbiome, so that different variables can be manipulated, researchers based at the University of Luxembourg have been exploring the area of microfluidics. This has led to the development of a model of the human gut, which has been termed HuMiX.
The model is designed to mimic the intestinal conditions and processes in a human. It also allows scientists to carefully manipulate a range of variables. This allows a more detailed study of the human-microbe interface. The model consists of three layers. The first contains media, the second human epithelial cell culture, and the third different microorganisms. Various sensors are present to record the physiological state of the biological construct. In trials the model has replicated normal intestinal responses.
Speaking about the model with Biotechnqiues, lead researcher Dr. Paul Wilmes explains “with HuMiX, we can observe interaction of bacteria in real-time as they communicate with human intestinal cells.”
The first run of studies will look at the effect of so-termed beneficial bacteria (of the type used with probiotics.)
The development of the artificial gut has been reported to the journal Nature Communications. The paper is titled “A microfluidics-based in vitro model of the gastrointestinal human-microbe interface.”
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