Scientists from University of Arizona and University of Luxembourg have developed a sort-of artificial gastrointestinal tract for studying the digestive system. The microfluidic system called HuMiX (human–microbial crosstalk) provides an environment for healthy human and microbial cells to exist together in an environment very similar to our gut. So far the system was used to evaluate reactions that occur when the bacteria Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Bacteroides caccae cohabited along with intestinal epithelial cells, providing a proof-of-concept toward more advanced studies involving a large numbers of bacteria.
In the long run, the hope is that animal models will be less necessary for drug studies and research, while providing a considerably more controlled environment for studies involving human cells than is possible with animals. Moreover, the modular design of the HuMiX system allows for expansion to other fields involving cells from regions other than the GI tract.
Some details from the University of Arizona:
The core of the technology is a spiral-shaped nanofabricated chamber that has a thin, permeable polymer membrane separating bacteria and nutrients from human gastrointestinal cells, while still allowing communication between the layers.
For their tests confirming the validity of HuMiX experiments, researchers used pure cultures of various bacterial strains with unprecedented control of the aerobic and anaerobic conditions required to co-culture host cells and microbial ecosystems. They then studied how the gene activity and metabolism of intestinal epithelial cells changed, depending on the bacterial strain. A comparison of data from HuMiX with other research groups who obtained their data from humans or animals showed strong agreement, meaning HuMiX delivered an accurate portrayal of the cellular and molecular processes taking place in the human gut.
Study in Nature Communications: A microfluidics-based in vitro model of the gastrointestinal human–microbe interface…
Source: University of Arizona…