Each day seems to bring a new claim in the media that the gut microbiota (gut microflora) is implicated in a new disease or condition: various digestive disorders, allergies, obesity, even toddler tantrums. The idea of using probiotic supplements to promote "good" gut bacteria seems to have been largely accepted by the public, if not by the scientific community.
Increased press interest reflects increased scientific interest in the role of the gut microbiota in health and disease. Now, a new model of the human gut - a patented technology from the University of Luxembourg - should enable more physologically relevant data to be obtained.
The human gut is a particularly complex organism, and it is difficult to replicate its structure and cell population interactions in the lab. This new model permits observation of the interactions between human intestinal cells and gut bacteria in real time.
The model is a microfluidic-based device comprising three chambers: a supply chamber, an epithelial cell culture chamber and a microbial cell culture chamber. The membrane and distance between the epithelial and microbial cells are configured to be representative of a healthy epithelial barrier.
The developers of the model envisage its use in basic research and clinical applications.
"There are clues, for example, that inflammatory processes can play a role in the onset of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's. In HuMiX, we can introduce distinct bacterial species or whole communities into the artificial gut model whether these organisms trigger or slow down inflammation, or even introduce immune cells and neurons together with the bacteria."