SEP 09, 2020 7:30 AM PDT

Swallow the Pill, Discover the Bugs Within

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandez

The 30-foot long human gastrointestinal tract consists of tissues and organs that work in concert to digest our food. The GI tract also harbors an incredibly complex and dynamic population of microorganisms, called the gut microbiota, which plays a vital role in maintaining health and wellbeing. Scientists estimate that there are almost as many bacterial cells as there are human ones in the digestive tract, and despite their importance, many of the intricacies surrounding the microbiota remain a mystery.

To get to the bottom of what types of bacteria colonize the GI system and what impact these have on human disease, researchers at Purdue University have created a solution: a 3D-printed capsule that, once swallowed, collects microbial samples along the gut for testing and analysis. The study was published in RSC Advances.

The ingestible capsule is elegant in its simplicity. Made of resin with a pH-sensitive tip, the capsule’s outer sheath gets dissolved once it comes into contact with the stomach’s acidic gastric juices. These fluids then enter the pill-like device, causing its hydrogel core to expand, sealing off the opening to ensure the safe passage of the microbial cargo. Once passed out naturally, the precious sample within the capsule can be easily extracted using forceps. With a manufacturing cost of around a dollar per device, the researchers are confident that they can feasibly become a frontline diagnostic tool for gastrointestinal disorders.

Indeed, a growing body of evidence is pointing towards a connection between the gut microbiota and conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and neurological diseases. With better microbiome sampling approaches that overcome the limitations of invasive techniques like endoscopies or colonoscopies, scientists can get an unprecedented glimpse into the enigmatic microbial world within.

 

Source: RSC Advances.


 

About the Author
  • Tara Fernandez has a PhD in Cell Biology and has spent over a decade uncovering the molecular basis of diseases ranging from skin cancer to obesity and diabetes. She currently works on developing and marketing disruptive new technologies in the biotechnology industry. Her areas of interest include innovation in molecular diagnostics, cell therapies, and immunology. She actively participates in various science communication and public engagement initiatives to promote STEM in the community.
You May Also Like
SEP 29, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
Cycling Molecules into Drug Candidates
SEP 29, 2020
Cycling Molecules into Drug Candidates
Statistics show that just 1 in 5,000 drug candidates ever makes it from the lab to the pharmacy. In a process that can t ...
SEP 21, 2020
Cancer
The Protein ETV1 May Act as a Biomarker for Gastrointestinal Cancer
SEP 21, 2020
The Protein ETV1 May Act as a Biomarker for Gastrointestinal Cancer
Cancer is an incredibly diverse disease. It has many types and even sub-types, with a vast range of characteristics. Som ...
SEP 25, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
Ray of Hope: Rare Cancer Biomarker Discovered
SEP 25, 2020
Ray of Hope: Rare Cancer Biomarker Discovered
Biliary tract cancer, or BTC, isn’t as talked about as breast or prostate cancers, probably because its incidence ...
NOV 09, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Potential Problems with Liquid Biopsies
NOV 09, 2020
Potential Problems with Liquid Biopsies
Liquid biopsies are tests that look for biomarkers in the blood, which can help inform the treatment of cancer. The tool ...
JAN 18, 2021
Cancer
An "E-Nose" Could Help Doctors Diagnose Breast Cancer and Its Subtypes
JAN 18, 2021
An "E-Nose" Could Help Doctors Diagnose Breast Cancer and Its Subtypes
Breast cancer is one of the most well-studied cancers in modern medicine. Diagnostics can already differentiate between ...
JAN 24, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Rare Neurodevelopment Disorder LINKED is IDed
JAN 24, 2021
Rare Neurodevelopment Disorder LINKED is IDed
Scientists have now characterized a genetic disorder called linkage-specific-deubiquitylation-deficiency-induced embryon ...
Loading Comments...