The ‘mini guts’ – known as organoids – are fully functioning gut tissues that can be used by researchers to efficiently test the effect of dietary interventions on gut physiology and cellular signalling factors.
Speaking with NutraIngredients Sabina Lukovac of TNO Research in the Netherlands explained that the small gut structures can be grown in the lab from intestinal stem cells using specialised growth media and techniques.
“What we do is manipulate intestinal stem cells … in a way that we can make them self-renew, and grow into normal functional gut epithelial cells” said Lukovac. “We can do this actually for different species.”
The researcher added that the original research was done on mouse gut cells, while TNO is now examining organoids different species – and is currently growing pig intestine organoids.
“The whole gut organoid system was set up to serve for regenerative medicine, so the innovative thing about TNO is that we want to use it for a totally different purpose,” said the innovation scientist.
“We want to use it as a screening platform,” she said, explaining that the system will be able to test food components such as probiotics, specific nutrients, and drugs. “There is a huge area of applications that you can think of, but right now we are focusing on probiotics.”
“It’s really physiologically relevant, so it doesn’t just represent one cell from the intestine, it represents the whole,” said Lukovac. “All the cells actually secrete hormones, they secrete antimicrobial peptides, so it’s really better than the existing in vitro system and it’s cheaper as well.”