The Dutch research organisation has joined forces with biotech firm Medimetrics to develop a new way to analyse gut physiology using micro-electronic capsules. Using their intelligent capsule technology, the firms suggest that it will be possible to take samples in vivo, at targeted locations, in a non-invasive way, away from a clinical research setting.
The IntelliCap system produced by Medimetrics is an orally administered, wirelessly controlled, electronic capsule system that was pioneered for the targeted delivery of drugs. Working with NIZO, the firm has now developed the technology to be able to take samples from the small intestine - thus offering promise in the substantiation of health claims related to functional foods in the gut.
“Food scientists wanting to develop functional foods immediately see the potential of the IntelliCap technology in enabling them to apply it as a novel tool to characterize the gut microbiome," said Christoph Wanke, clinical program leader at Medimetrics.
Harro Timmerman, principal scientist at NIZO added that the new system is a ‘revolutionary tool’ that can assess the way food and probiotics affect the composition of the microbiota of healthy individuals.
"We can better decipher the mechanisms which influence gut health, host metabolism and immunity," he said. "We may even access new markers which enable us to substantiate claims regarding the health properties of certain foods.”
The scientific collaboration between NIZO and Medimetrics (which spun out from mother firm Phillips in 2011) has enabled the capsule to be adapted to ‘freeze’ each sample as it is taken, avoiding deterioration.
NIZO say this guarantees sample stability through its journey in the intestines, and right up to the point of analysis. The remotely controlled capsule also measures its transit time, pH levels and temperature.
The technology offers a non-invasive means of sampling and mapping content from the small intestine to identify its microbiological composition.
NIZO suggested that the process will provide novel insights into how certain foods and ingredients might react in our gut and so affec health.
In the coming year, the two firms will carry out extensive studies to explore and validate the technology before making it available to the food industry.