Artificial small intestine system to study food, drug absorption

This can overcome ethical issues and infrastructure requirements that restrict researchers

January 20, 2018 06:11 pm | Updated 06:34 pm IST

 “Bioactive compounds can use different mechanisms for crossing the intestine. So we tested both compounds,” says Anandharamakrishnan.

“Bioactive compounds can use different mechanisms for crossing the intestine. So we tested both compounds,” says Anandharamakrishnan.

Scientists from Central Food Technological Research Institute (CSIR-CFTRI), Mysuru, and Indian Institute of Food Processing Technology (IIFPT), Thanjavur, have developed an artificial small intestine system to test the level of absorption of micronutrients and other bioactive compounds from food. While the artificial system requires just two hours to analyse the intestinal absorption, the methods currently in use are time-consuming and not suitable for studying large number of compounds.

The Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research has also developed an artificial system. “Unlike their system, ours simulates the exact physiological conditions and helps to evaluate both bioaccessibility and bioavailability of nanoformulated bioactive compounds,” says Dr. C. Anandharamakrishnan, Director of IIFPT and corresponding author of the paper published in the Journal of Food Engineering. It cost Rs 20 lakh to develop the system.

The system consists of a perfusion chamber fitted with rat intestine. “To perform animal trials, we need at least 6–10 rats, but using this system just two–three rats would suffice,” explains Dr Parthasarathi Subramanian from CFTRI and first author of the paper. “There are severe ethical issues and infrastructure requirements that restrict the researchers in carrying out in vivo studies. To overcome this, the artificial small intestinal system was fabricated.”

The researchers checked the permeability of both fat-soluble (vitamin E) and water-soluble (gallic acid) compounds using the new set-up. “Bioactive compounds can use different mechanisms for crossing the intestine. Fat-soluble compounds follow transcellular absorption whereas paracellular route of absorption is used by water-soluble compounds. So we tested both compounds,” says Dr. Anandharamakrishnan. The researchers then compared the performance of the set-up to in situ intestinal perfusion study. For the perfusion study, the rat was anaesthetised and the absorption of both compounds were studied.

In the case of the fat-soluble compound, the permeability was higher in rats than the new system. But the artificial system performed better for the water-soluble compound.

“The absorption of the fat-soluble compound is facilitated by carrier proteins like NPC1L1 in the intestinal cells. But in the engineered system, there is no carrier-mediated uptake, only passive diffusion. So the engineered model is best for studying compounds with passive diffusion” adds Dr. Anandharamakrishnan.

A patent has been filed and the system is currently in use at CSIR-IIFPT.

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