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Bringing the Human Gut Microbiome into the Light

The human gut microbiome is an incredible system of symbiotic organisms. These micro-organisms that provide us with vitamins and amino acids as well as break down toxins and protect us from harmful invaders. We could not live without them and they could not survive without their host, us. We carry over 3 pounds of these little helpers in our body and outnumber our cells. Although this system is so important to our survival, it has been hard to study for long periods of time, until now. Judah Folkman, professor of Vascular Biology at Harvard Medical School states, “”Until now, use of traditional culture methods and even more sophisticated organoid cultures have prevented the microbiome from being studied beyond one or two days. With our human gut-on-a-chip, we can not only culture the normal gut microbiome for extended times.”

 Escherichia coli

E. Coli 10000x magnified

The human gut-on-a-chip is constructed from a clear, flexible polymer roughly the size of the a flash drive. This chip simulates the environment of our gut so well that cultures can last up to weeks. This extended period of time can allow for major breakthroughs in the study of the microbiome and what happens when things do not go as planned. Judah Folkman adds, “we can also analyze contributions of pathogens, immune cells, and vascular and lymphatic endothelium, as well as model specific diseases to understand complex pathophysiological responses of the intestinal tract.”


The Wyss team thinks that this new technology can help treat patients by eventually culturing there own cells and microbiome on the human gut-on-a-chip to test different treatments. This new technology, although not directly discovering anything about the human gut microbiome, will lead to major discoveries down the line.


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1 Comment

  1. jdna

    Wow, this can really lead to amazing breakthroughs. We are already on the verge of discovering so much more about these organisms living in our gut, this will help push us forward in the right direction to even more! There are many links to health issues and problems regarding the microbiome, such things as Autism are even linked to the organism. It is unknown how autism starts, but something causes a change in brain structure or function that leads to the condition. New research shows that it could possibly be related to the human gut microbiome. Such an advance could really help scientists get to the bottom of this.

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