Cultivating gut microbiota on a gut-on-a-chip

A complex human gut microbiome cultured in anaerobic intestine-on-a-chip

A recently published paper on Nature biomedical engineering highlights the possibility of cultivating gut microbiota on a gut-on-a-chip under aerobic and anaerobic condition. Interestingly, Jalili-Firoozinezhad S, Gazzinga F.S., Calamari E.L et colleagues demonstrated that the living gut microbiota can be stable in anaerobic condition for 5 days instead of 48 hours, coculturing the gut microbiota with human Caco-2 intestinal epithelium or with cells cultivated from patients biopsies. This study represents a step forward on the production of organ-on-a-chip, and in particular for gut on chip design, gut-microbiota studies and characterizations, and personalized medicine approaches.

figure 2 gut on a chip

Figure of Goc-MM, a microfluidic gut on a chip, that mimics the physiological condition of the human intestine in a 3D in vitro model in what concerns the gut structure, function, physiology and pathology.

gut microbiota on a gut-on-a-chip using our CubiX system


The diverse bacterial populations that comprise the commensal microbiome of the human intestine play a central role in health and disease. A method that sustains complex microbial communities in direct contact with living human intestinal cells and their overlying mucus layer in vitro would thus enable the investigation of host-microbiome interactions. Here, we show the extended coculture of living human intestinal epithelium with stable communities of aerobic and anaerobic human gut microbiota, using a microfluidic intestine-on-a-chip that permits the control and real-time assessment of physiologically relevant oxygen gradients. When compared to aerobic coculture conditions, the establishment of a transluminal hypoxia gradient in the chip increased intestinal barrier function and sustained a physiologically relevant level of microbial diversity, consisting of over 200 unique operational taxonomic units from 11 different genera and an abundance of obligate anaerobic bacteria, with ratios of Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes similar to those observed in human faeces. The intestine-on-a-chip may serve as a discovery tool for the development of microbiome-related therapeutics, probiotics and nutraceuticals.


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