In a presentation kicking off the final session of NutraIngredients' Probiota Digital Summit yesterday (11 Feb), Dr Ruiari Robertson, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Queen Mary University of London, predicted the emergence of home testing made possible by the gains made in analysis methods.
“The reason this field has expanded in the last few years is because of the advances in sequencing technology. Traditional sequencers are large, big hardware devices that sit on a desk in a lab.
“There have been great advances in these point-of-care or miniaturised technology such as USB devices that has been used in Ebola outbreaks for example, show illustrating that sequencing is becoming more widely available in a number of different settings.”
Dr Robertson pointed to Oxford Nanopore’s MinION as an example of this portability. Launched in 2014, the USB-sized stick provides the ability to sequence samples from extreme conditions, generating short to ultra-long (over 4 Mb) reads.
However, these read lengths rely mostly upon input fragment lengths that require meticulous extraction and purification procedures.
Dr Robertson also predicted microbiome research would move beyond stool samples arguing that the stool was not an accurate reflection of the gut environment.
He highlighted the use of a smart pill that would be swallowed and then tracked via Bluetooth from a smartphone.
The idea is the pill could sample from different gut regions, testing different niches and obtaining different readouts so scientists were not relying on data from the lower intestine.
NutraIngredients highlighted new research this week that describes the use of bioluminescent imaging to better assess prebiotic and probiotic efficacy via a capsule that measures enzyme activity.
The capsule measures levels of bile salt hydrolase in the gastrointestinal tract, giving indications of the status of inflammatory bowel diseases.
Additionally, the capsule could determine the efficacy of many commercially available probiotic supplements by testing levels of the enzyme, thought to be responsible for probiotic health benefits.
In the day’s panel discussion, this subject was further discussed in which Lonza’s Dr Zain Saiyed thought these smart capsules could contribute to gut personalisation approaches as well as precision dosing.
“As we go forward, we’re going to see more real-time imaging techniques,” he said. “This will give us a better picture of how pre- and probiotics are impacting health.
“Also, when you’re talking about precision dosing, I think delivery technologies are going to play a huge role. Lonza are continuing to research other delivery forms that allow increased probiotic survival.
AI role in gut health
The panel discussion, which also featured Atlas’ Miguel Toribio-Mateas, Lux Research’s Harini Venkataraman, Daniel Ramón Vidal, from ADM and Jelena Vulevic, CEO and Co-Founder of veMico, touched on Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a way of mining the huge amounts of data generated.
“There’s no doubt that AI is a consideration for the future,” said Vidal. “We need it to manage all the data and also because we are comparing different forms of biological data particularly in precision nutrition it is not only a question of the genome and the microbiome, the cultural background of individuals must also be taken into consideration.
“People’s dietary habits differ from country to country. We need to consider this kind of framework and find ways to integrate all this data in order to comment authoritatively on precision nutrition. AI is fundamental to this.”
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