New human microbiome research tool
One of the most complex human organs is the digestive tract: Here, the body comes into contact with all manner of diet-derived compounds and with countless bacteria.
Scientists from the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) of the University of Luxembourg in collaboration with colleagues at the Luxembourg Institute of Health and the University of Arizona in the United States have now proven that a model of the human gut they have developed and patented - HuMiX - is representative of the actual conditions and processes that occur within our intestines.
With HuMiX, the researchers can analyse the complex interactions between human cells and bacteria, predict their effects on health or disease onset, and study the action of probiotics and drugs. The researchers publish their findings today in the journal Nature Communications (DOI: 10.1038/NCOMMS11535).
In HuMiX, the "Human Microbial Cross-talk" model, human intestinal cells and bacteria can be cultivated together in a very small space under representative conditions. The apparatus, no bigger than a beer mat, consists of three chambers. The top chamber is the supply level, from which nutrients continuously flow down to the cell cultures below. Human cells grow on a very thin membrane in the middle chamber, while bacteria grow in the lowest chamber.
"With HuMiX, we can observe interaction of bacteria in real-time as they communicate with human intestinal cells," says Prof. Paul Wilmes, head of the LCSB Ecosystems Biology Group and inventor of HuMiX.
For their tests confirming the validity of HuMiX experiments, the researchers employed pure cultures of various bacterial strains. "Using cutting-edge analytical methods established at the LCSB, we then studied how the gene activity and metabolism of intestinal epithelial cells change depending on the bacterial strain used in HuMiX," Wilmes explains.
"A comparison of our data with results from other research groups who obtained theirs from humans or animals showed strong agreement." That means HuMiX delivers a very accurate portrayal of the cellular and molecular processes taking place in the human gut. "With HuMiX we can also study processes so far inaccessible by existing experimental methods," Wilmes adds.
Dr. Pranjul Shah, first author of the publication and co-inventor of the HuMiX device, names one example of a metabolic process the LCSB researchers discovered with HuMiX: "In a co-culture of intestinal cells and a certain strain of the bacterial species Lactobacillus rhamnosus, we determined that production of a messenger of the nervous system, specifically the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA, is stimulated in intestinal cells, indicating a mechanism by which the intestine may be communicating with the brain."
Scientists had already seen evidence of this effect several years earlier in the brain of mice born with a completely sterile gut (which was devoid of all intestinal flora), when their gut was inoculated with similar Lactobacillus strains. "The ability of HuMiX to provide such responses can be attributed to the unique capability of the HuMiX model to allow cultivation of anaerobic bacteria along with human intestinal cells", highlights Shah.
"We can now study these and similar effects at an unprecedented level of precision thanks to HuMiX," Paul Wilmes continues. "There are clues, for example, that inflammatory processes can play a role in the onset of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's. In HuMiX, we can introduce distinct bacterial species or whole communities into the artificial gut model whether these organisms trigger or slow down inflammation, or even introduce immune cells and neurons together with the bacteria."
In their publication, the scientists present evidence that HuMiX is a suitable tool for understanding a range of molecular processes involved in the interaction between human cells and bacteria. Furthermore, Wilmes sees a benefit not only for basic research, but also for clinical application: "With HuMiX, we can now also analyse how probiotics, dietary compounds or drugs affect human physiology. We expect to see concrete indicators of how these therapeutics need to be refined in order to work better in the future."
The HuMiX project has received support from the Luxembourg National Research Fund's ATTRACT, CORE, Inter mobility, Accompanying Measures 2c, Proof-of-Concept and AFR funding programmes.
Thomas Klein | EurekAlert!
A promising target for kidney fibrosis
21.04.2017 | Brigham and Women's Hospital
Stem cell transplants: activating signal paths may protect from graft-versus-host disease
20.04.2017 | Technische Universität München
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
25.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
25.04.2017 | Materials Sciences
25.04.2017 | Life Sciences