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Gastrointestinal Tract on Chip - An automated microfluidics-based modular device for complete simulation of the processes of digestion and absorption of orally ingested bioactive compounds

Project description

Through the lips and over the gums, look out gut-on-a-chip, here it comes

We typically think of the body as a 'solid' construct made up of tissues and organs. However, the cells that make up all these structures are fluid-filled spaces, and they are surrounded by other fluid-filled spaces. More than 50 % of the human body is water. The advent of microfluidics technologies has created a unique opportunity to study fluid flows and interactions confined on miniature chips of microchannels. The EU-funded GASTRIC project is harnessing this capability with an automated microfluidics device simulating the entire gastrointestinal system. The device will integrate co-cultures of human cells with gut bacteria to enable scientists to study the fate of very small amounts of bioactive compounds as they pass through a tiny gut-on-a-chip. This novel high-throughput, high-resolution test platform will speed testing, minimise animal use and open the door to personalised medicine by using patients' own cells.


People can only ingest food through the oral cavity, and oral administration remains the preferred route for the delivery of drugs or dietary supplements. However, orally ingested compounds must first survive digestion and then be absorbed at the small intestine to reach the systemic circulation. This proposal aims to develop and fabricate the first automated microfluidics-based device for complete simulation of the processes of digestion and intestinal absorption of orally ingested bioactive compounds. The innovation lies on the capacity to simulate the process in full and, on the introduction of integrated sensors for online, real-time monitoring of the pH, barrier integrity, intestinal permeation and cellular responses. In addition, the use of primary cells will allow to create disease models and patient-specific tissues for personalised medicine. Co-cultures with the gut microbiome will allow to assess the effect of the ingested compounds on commensal bacteria and of the latter in nutrient digestion. The work will be conducted at the International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory in Portugal, with two secondments projected at the University of Southampton for 4 months, and intersectorally at GlaxoSmithKline, in Stevenage, UK for 2 months. The device will offer the possibility to study minute sample amounts, with high resolution and with the potential for high-throughput analysis, which is key for its adoption by large pharmaceutical and food industries with high economic and social impact. The proposal aligns with the societal challenges 1 (Health, demographic change and wellbeing) and 2 (Food security) of the current Horizon 2020 work programme. The work is multidisciplinary and the combination of learning through research and a comprehensive training plan will strongly improve the applicant's researcher profile and career prospects.

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Net EU contribution
€ 159 815,04
4715-330 Braga

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Continente Norte Cávado
Activity type
Research Organisations
Total cost
€ 159 815,04