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A Giant Artificial Gut

What do you do when you’re one of the world’s biggest food companies and you’re looking to explore what happens after your products get chewed and swallowed? Apparently you build a large refrigerator-sized, million dollar model of a human gut, complete with valves, injection ports for enzymes, and a transparent window for visibility, of course.

Nestle, in their quest to create foods that trick your body into feeling even more satisfied after eating than you otherwise would be, has a research and development center that holds this artificial gut, tucked next to the mountains in Lausanne, Switzerland. Here they’re busy studying and trying to commercialize gastrointestinal phenomenon such as the “ileal break,” a peptidal feedback mechanism that both slows transit through the GI system and reduces food intake by triggering feelings of satiation. They hope to release products based on this science within five years.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Tracking the movement of food in a person’s gastrointestinal tract isn’t easy. So at a “digestion lab”—part of Nestle’s sprawling research and development center here—scientists use a million-dollar model of the human gut.

The machine is about the size of a large refrigerator. It has several compartments linked by valves, and it is carefully calibrated to the body’s temperature. The entire setup is controlled by a computer. The front is glass, allowing observers to watch as food travels through the system.

On a recent day, the “stomach” section at the top slowly squeezed and churned a salt solution, just like the real thing. The liquefied result then wended its way down the other tubes, representing other sections of the digestive tract. At each stage, tiny valves released the appropriate salt, bile and enzymes, which helped to digest the food.

The question still stands: What comes out the other end?

The Wall Street Journal article: Hungry? Your Stomach Really Does Have a Mind of Its Own…

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*


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