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Ingestible Intestinal Capsule Non-Invasively Analyzes Bacteria and Viruses in Digestive System

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 12 May 2023
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Image: The non-invasive, ingestible intestinal sampling device sheds light on human gut activities (Photo courtesy of Envivo Bio)
Image: The non-invasive, ingestible intestinal sampling device sheds light on human gut activities (Photo courtesy of Envivo Bio)

Increasing evidence suggests that the gut microbiome and metabolome play a crucial role in various diseases, as well as in the digestion of food, immune system regulation, and protection against pathogens, all of which have significant implications for human health and disease. Given the regional heterogeneity of the intestinal tract, conventional sampling methods such as endoscopic biopsies and stool collection provide limited insight into how intestinal microbes and metabolites influence human physiology. Now, an innovative intestinal sampling device can non-invasively and accurately profile the human gut microbiome and metabolome under physiological conditions for the first time.

A landmark study by a group of researchers suggests that Envivo Bio Inc.’s (San Francisco, CA, USA) CapScan, the only device of its kind, has the potential to expedite microbiome-related research and biopharmaceutical drug discovery and development initiatives. CapScan is a non-invasive, ingestible collection device approximately the size of a vitamin pill. Each device is equipped with a pH-targeted enteric coating, designed to dissolve at a pre-determined rate based on the unique pH levels of the various regions of the human intestines. Once this coating dissolves, CapScan's internal bladder opens and draws in luminal content, which is then analyzed externally.

In the study, the researchers used CapScan to gather 240 intestinal samples from 15 healthy participants. Each participant swallowed sets of four devices, each designed to open at progressively higher pH levels. After the devices were expelled, the researchers employed multi-omics to examine the vast sets of microbiome, metabolome, and proteome data collected regionally throughout the gastrointestinal tract. The researchers found notable differences, for example, between bile acids in the small intestine and stool samples, which could be scientifically and clinically significant. Moreover, an accompanying study demonstrated the potential for further spatiotemporal profiling of the gut metabolome using CapScan, including differences in dietary and lipid compounds. Collectively, the results from both studies establish the feasibility and usefulness of CapScan for the collection, characterization, and quantification of intestinal microbiota, metabolome, host proteins, and bile acids along the human intestine in a safe and routine manner.

“Measuring gut metabolites in stool is like studying an elephant by examining its tail,” said Dari Shalon, Ph.D., founder and CEO of Envivo Bio. “Most metabolites are made, transformed and utilized higher up in the intestines and don’t even make it into the stool. CapScan gives us a fuller picture of the gut metabolome and its interactions with the gut microbiome for the first time.”

“Our research confirms that, up until now, studies of the gut microbiome have really been studies of the stool microbiome, which missed out on most of the biological activity in our intestinal tract,” added Shalon. “By enabling researchers to sample and assess each of the diverse intestinal ecosystems separately and directly for the first time, CapScan opens the door to a new era of microbiome research.”

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