Ingestible capsule that could help demystify the gut-brain axis
Researchers at the University of Maryland are building a platform that can monitor and model gut microbiome serotonin activity
Anyone who has experienced “butterflies in the stomach” before giving a big presentation will be unsurprised to learn there is a physical connection between their gut and their brain. Neuroscientists and medical professionals call this connection the “gut-brain axis” (GBA); a better understanding of the GBA could lead to the development of treatments and cures for neurological disorders such as depression and anxiety, as well as for a range of chronic auto-immune inflammatory diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and rheumatoid arthritis.
Right now, these conditions and diseases are primarily diagnosed by patients’ reports of their symptoms. However, neuroscientists and doctors are investigating the GBA in order to find so-called “biomarkers” for these diseases. In the case of the GBA, that biomarker is likely serotonin.
By targeting this complex connection between the gut and the brain, researchers hope they can uncover the role of the gut microbiome in both gut and brain disorders. With an easily identifiable biomarker such as serotonin, there may be some way to measure how dysfunction in the gut microbiome affects the GBA signaling pathways. Having tools that could increase understanding, help with disease diagnosis, and offer insight into how diet and nutrition impacts mental health would be extremely valuable.
With $1 million in National Science Foundation funding, a team of University of Maryland experts from engineering, neuroscience, applied microbiology, and physics has been making headway on building a platform that can monitor and model the real-time processing of gut microbiome serotonin activity. Three new published papers detail the progress of the work, which includes innovations in detecting serotonin, assessing its neurological effects, and sensing minute changes to the gut epithelium.
In “Electrochemical Measurement of Serotonin by Au-CNT Electrodes Fabricated on Porous Cell Culture Membranes” (https:/
The team’s second paper, “A Hybrid Biomonitoring System for Gut-Neuron Communication” (https:/
Finally, the concept, design, and use for the entire biomonitoring platform is described in a third paper, “3D Printed Electrochemical Sensor Integrated Transwell Systems” (https:/
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