The Gut Microbiome and You
Who We Are
The Biomimetic Microengineering (BioME) Lab at UT, led by Dr. Hyun Jung Kim, is a biomedical engineering research lab attempting to map out and recreate the microbiome of the human digestive system. We are currently concerned with determining how the foreign bacteria that inhabits our gastrointestinal tract interacts with the native cells that make up our small and large intestines.
The project that we are proposing, using cutting edge gut-on-a-chip technology, will utilize fecal samples from UT students to analyze the bacterial content of their gut microenvironment and monitor the gut’s bodily response to certain food groups. The fecal samples obtained from various donors in our lab will be washed down so that each fecal donors' colon bacteria is isolated. These bacteria will then be co-cultured in a chip with human gut cells that exhibit intestinal barrier functions. We will then test how the gut bacteria use non-digestible dietary fibers, so-called "prebiotics", to produce important compounds such as short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These SCFAs are used as fuel sources for the gut cells, improve barrier function, and control the immune system. Thus, as a proof-of-concept, we will utilize the gut-on-a-chip to test how an individual student's gut bacteria work to produce different levels of SCFAs. The outcome of this study may be helpful to understand how a fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) can improve someone's gut health. Essentially, our lab gets relevant research on how the materials in our digestive system interact to maintain homeostasis and the donors get valuable insight about their dietary choices and its effects on their specific gut microbiome.
This is important because gut bacteria play a significant role in our overall health. Any imbalance in the interactions between human and bacterial cells can lead to complications like bloating/abdominal pain or even inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and colorectal cancer. Monitoring the gut’s response to certain food groups, prebiotics, and other chemical compounds offers not only the knowledge of how to avoid imbalances in our gut’s stability, but also provides data useful in curing patients with IBD, colorectal cancer, and other gut related diseases. Along with this insight, this project offers a means of optimizing gut-on-a-chip technology. This technology provides a pivotal step towards moving away from animal models, providing personalized medical therapies for the aforementioned diseases and also has the potential to be a foundational cornerstone in research regarding human fecal microbiome transplant (FMT).
Why We Need Your Help
We hope you’ll support our project not only because the feedback that participants get from us will make it easier to avoid everyday feelings of bloating and abdominal pain on an individual basis, but also because you would be funding invaluable research on the third most common cancer in the U.S. (colorectal cancer)! We can’t do this research without your help. Every sample and test requires funding that we don’t have, plus we need to hire research assistants to make all of this happen. Your gift is essential to the success of our project. Thank you for your generosity!