A team led by tufts university engineers has developed a 3d-printed pill that samples bacteria in the gut - called the microbiome - as it passes through the gastrointestinal tract (GI). The researchers say being able to analyze the bacterial species present in the gut is important for diagnosing and treating conditions affected by the microbiome.
According to the researchers, the 3d-printed pill described in the journal advanced intelligent systems represents the first non-invasive diagnostic tool that can provide information about the entire gastrointestinal microbiome. Current methods of sampling the microbiome include analysis of fecal DNA and metabolites, but this method provides little information about the environment upstream of the distal colon, where bacterial species can vary significantly.
The pill has been studied to accurately identify bacterial populations and their relative abundance in vitro and in vivo, the paper said. It has been tested in pigs and primates, but clinical trials are needed to determine whether the drug can be routinely used in human clinical care.
More than 1,000 species of bacteria can inhabit the gut. Most of these bacteria provide beneficial support in digestion and disease prevention. When the natural balance of the microbiome is skewed, a condition known as an "ecological imbalance" can develop that may be associated with worsening inflammation, susceptibility to infection and even cancer, among other diseases. Research is increasingly revealing specific microbial metabolites that have beneficial or protective effects on host disease resistance.
"We are learning about the role of the gut microbiome in health and disease. But we don't know much about its biogeography, "said Sameer Sonkusale, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at tufts university's school of engineering. Research. "This pill will advance our understanding of the role of spatial distribution in microbiome characteristics, thus promoting novel treatments and treatments for a wide range of diseases and conditions."
Birth control pills are more complicated than sponges. It is manufactured in a 3D printer with microfluidic channels that sample different stages of the gastrointestinal tract. The pill is coated with a ph-sensitive coating, so it does not absorb any samples before entering the small intestine (bypassing the stomach) where the coating dissolves. A semi-permeable membrane separates two Chambers in a pill - one containing a spiral channel that absorbs bacteria, the other containing a chamber filled with calcium salts. The salt chamber helps create a permeable flow through the membrane, which sucks the bacteria into the spiral channels. The small magnets in the pills allow people to fix them in certain locations in the intestines, allowing them to sample more spatial objects using magnets outside the body.
"The device is designed to be very easy to use, pose little risk to the people being measured, but provide a lot of information," said Giovanni Widmer, professor of infectious diseases and global health at Tufts Cummings veterinary college. - author of a study exploring the effectiveness of pills in animal studies. "Compared to other non-invasive diagnostic devices, it's like having an electrocardiogram with a healthy gut."
The researchers believe the technique closes an important gap in gastrointestinal diagnosis. "We have incredible technology for analyzing bacterial populations using DNA sequencing, but until now there was no way to sample bacteria throughout the gastrointestinal tract in a non-invasive way," said Hojatollah Rezaei Nejad, a postdoctoral researcher who studies fiction. Application of 3D printing in Sonkusale laboratory in Tufts and lead author of the study. "With non-invasive sampling, the pill could help us better identify and understand the role of different bacterial species in health and disease."