Home pagePress monitoringArtificial gut aims to expose the elusive microbiome

Artificial gut aims to expose the elusive microbiome

Date: 16.10.2019 

The microbiome is a collection of trillions of bacteria that reside in and on our bodies. Each person's microbiome is unique – just like a fingerprint – and researchers are finding more and more ways in which it impacts our health and daily lives.

Kredit: Glen Cooper.One example involves an apparent link between the brain and the bacteria in the gut. This brain-gut "axis" is believed to influence conditions such as Parkinson's disease, depression, and irritable bowel syndrome. However, many studies into the brain-gut axis have stalled because of one central problem: the lack of an adequate testable model of the gut.

Current testing platforms cannot emulate the human gut accurately and cheaply enough for large-scale studies. The research community needs something new, which is what a team at MIT Lincoln Laboratory is tackling in a project funded through the Technology Office. Researchers there aim to create the perfect artificial gut.

"The question from the mechanical side is, how do you emulate the colon?" says Todd Thorsen, the project's principal investigator from the Biological and Chemical Technologies Group. "Bacteria in the colon occupy lots of ecological niches." "Until now, no one has been able to culture a microbiome sample and maintain it," says David Walsh from the Biological and Chemical Technologies Group, who led the device's development and fabrication. "If we can maintain a culture, we can do things like add toxins and therapeutics to see how they change the culture over time."

To address the problem, the laboratory team developed a multimaterial platform made of permeable silicon rubber and other plastics, such as polystyrene, all of which are cheap and can be rapidly prototyped. The two components of the platform emulate the essential oxygen and mucosal gradients.





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