Probiotics are not always ‘good bacteria’

IMAGE: This is UT’s Hyun Jung Kim, holding a ‘gut-on-a-chip’ microphysiological system.
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Credit: Cockrell School of Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin

The very first research study examining the system of how an illness establishes utilizing human organ-on-a-chip technology has actually been effectively finished by engineers at The University of Texas atAustin


Researchers from the Cockrell School of Engineering had the ability to clarify a part of the body – the digestion system– where numerous concerns stay unanswered. Using their “gut inflammation-on-a-chip” microphysiological system, the research study group verified that digestive tract barrier interruption is the start initiator of gut swelling.

The research study likewise consists of proof that calls into question the traditional knowledge of taking probiotics – live germs that are thought about great for gut health and discovered in supplements and foods such as yogurt – regularly. According to the findings, the advantages of probiotics depend upon the vigor of one’s digestive tract epithelium, or the gut barrier, a fragile single-cell layer that secures the remainder of the body from other possibly damaging germs discovered in the human gut.

“By making it possible to customize specific conditions in the gut, we could establish the original catalyst, or onset initiator, for the disease,” stated Hyun Jung Kim, assistant teacher in the department of biomedical engineering who led the research study. “If we can determine the root cause, we can more accurately determine the most appropriate treatment.”

The findings are released today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Until now, organs-on-chips, which are microchips lined by living human cells to design different organs from the heart and lungs to the kidneys and bone marrow, exclusively acted as precise designs of organ performance in a regulated environment. This is the very first time that an unhealthy organ-on-a-chip has actually been established and utilized to demonstrate how an illness establishes in the body– in this case, the scientists analyzed gut swelling.

“Once the gut barrier has been damaged, probiotics can be harmful just like any other bacteria that escapes into the human body through a damaged intestinal barrier,” stated Woojung Shin, a biomedical engineeringPh D. prospect who dealt with Kim on the research study. “When the gut barrier is healthy, probiotics are beneficial. When it is compromised, however, they can cause more harm than good. Essentially, ‘good fences make good neighbors.’ “

Shin prepares to establish more personalized human digestive tract illness designs such as for inflammatory bowel illness or colorectal cancer in order to determine how the gut microbiome manages swelling, cancer transition and the effectiveness of cancer immunotherapy.

Kim is a leading scientist in the advancement of human organs-on-chips. He established the very first human gut-on-a-chip in 2012 at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.


This research study was supported in part by the Alternatives in Scientific Research of The International Foundation for Ethical Research Graduate Fellowship and the National Research Foundation ofKorea .

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