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Microbial super-pill can reveal gut health

The basis of the pill is to capture detailed information about the human gut microbiome (which is the aggregate of microorganisms and their genetic material drawn from this niche). These microorganisms play a role in human physiology and organ function, including digestion and immunity and hence the gut microbiome is intimately connected with health and disease. Disease connected with the composition of the intestinal microbiome include obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis and autism.

With the pill itself, this functions like a type of diagnostic tool that can demonstrate how disruptions in the microbial community are linked to a patient’s health conditions. The traditional way of doing this is through taking stool samples. However, these are limited in their ability to show the complete picture of the gut microbiome, in particular this analysis cannot show where different microbial populations reside in the gut.

The pill is designed to be swallowed, based on hydrogel technology, and be capable of traversing the entire gastrointestinal tract and remain intact. Super-absorbent hydrogels, based on the polymerization of acrylic acid and acrylamide, can absorb 150–300 times their weight in most aqueous environments, and this is how the pill collects microbial specimens.

On its journey through the human body, the pill collects microbial samples and it can relate different microbial species to different locales, such as the mouth, stomach, liver, pancreas, gallbladder, small intestine, and rectum.. The researchers have dubbed this ‘gut-oscopy.’

The pill was created using 3D bio-printing technology. The following video reveals more about the development of the smart microbiome gathering pill:

The data could also lead to cures for genetic diseases, personalized drugs, and even diets based on particular genes, since several gut microorganisms are known to modulate the metabolism of different pharmaceutical compounds. However, many challenges remain, and a conceptual leap is required to shift thinking from correlation to causation and ultimately to translation into therapies.

The study has been reported to the journal RSC Advances. The paper is titled “Smart capsule for non-invasive sampling and studying of the gastrointestinal microbiome.”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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