Probiota Americas

New gut models facilitating microbiome research

By Hank Schultz contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Stomach, Digestion

The understanding of what happens within the human digestive system has always been hampered by the inability to observe that system in action, leave alone the imperfect understanding of one of the major components of the system, the gut microbiome.  But new models are being perfected that offer a more accurate and more detailed look at how the gut microbiome affects the overall organism, experts say.

Presenters at the recent Probiota Americas event in San Diego told NutraIngredients-USA that various approaches have been taken, which include detailed mechanical models to animal models, which include the whole animal or portions thereof.  Animal models have the advantage of offering a look at an overall system that includes epithelial cells and mucous layers.

“That’s where animal models really have their strength.  The idea that you can really tease out the mechanisms involved, you can manipulate the system,” ​said Paul Forsythe, PhD, assistant professor and principal investigator, McMaster Brain-Body Institute in Hamilton, ON. Forsythe said of particular interest is a model in which a section of dissected mouse small intestine with a portion of nerve bundle still attached can be used to see how different microorganisms in the gut affect signaling along this nerve pathway.

“Gut models are very relevant in testing safety and efficacy by they need to be valid and reliable. The ones that come to mind are TNO TIM-1 and TIM-2 models,”​ said Deshanie Rai,  PhD, senior associate director of Bayer HealthCare. “The beauty of the model is it allows you not only to look at the bioaccessibility of ingredients but also at the microbiome.”

Edwin Abeln, PhD marketing and sales manager for TNO, the Dutch research consortium that developed the models, said that group is going beyond a system that contains some human or animal gut tissue, as is the case in the TIM models, to one that is actually made of tissue.

“We are currently even building a system based on organoids, and these organoids are based on stem cells, which can be used to study the interaction between the probiotic strain and the human epithelial layer, and that’s quite important,”​ Abeln said.

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