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Scientists Create "Mini-Guts" To Help Find A Treatment For Leaky Gut

Christina Coughlin
mbg Editorial Assistant By Christina Coughlin
mbg Editorial Assistant
Christina Coughlin is an editorial assistant at mindbodygreen. She graduated from Georgetown University in 2019 with a degree in psychology and music.
Person With Arms Crossed Over Stomach

Leaky gut is a condition in which the lining of the intestine literally "leaks" as a break in the lining allows microbes and other molecules to seep out. It contributes to diseases like dementia, cancer, and arthritis, but there are currently no treatments. Recent research, however, has identified a pathway for potential treatment by creating "mini-guts" in a dish.

Using patient cells, scientists created a 3D model of the human intestine that allowed them to simulate leaky gut conditions, thus giving them the information to choose the best method of treatment for the syndrome. 

This model was created by obtaining stem cells of patients' intestines through a biopsy, which the scientists then grew in a lab. Once grown, these cells formed crypts similar to the valley-like structure of the lining of the gut, dubbed "mini-guts" by the researchers.

In order to simulate the conditions of leaky gut, researchers exposed the intestinal lining of their "mini-guts," sprinkling different kinds of bacteria so that they would begin to deteriorate. Because of this model, researchers identified a specific signaling pathway that is affected most by leaky gut, along with an enzyme that plays a key role in this pathway, called AMPK.

According to the research, leaky gut is more common than previously thought, due to its link with inflammation. "I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a disease in which systemic inflammation is not a driver," says author Soumita Das, Ph.D. "That's why, even though there are so many things we still don't know, we're excited about the broad potential this model and these findings open for developing personalized leaky gut therapeutics that target AMPK and the stress-polarity signaling pathway."

To continue the research, these scientists want to take a deeper look into the diseases related to leaky gut and see how the syndrome drives these certain diseases. They are also looking to "test various ways to tighten junctions in the context of aging, inflammatory bowel disease, cancer and other conditions to see if they can reduce or prevent initiation and progression of these diseases," says Heather Buschman, Ph.D.

If you think you're at risk, read through our top signs and symptoms of leaky gut, plus how to treat it with food.

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