Reproduction of the microenvironment of the gastrointestinal tract for the nutritional study of alternative proteins and their interaction with the microbiota

The MICROGUT project aims to investigate the nutritional quality and microbiota interaction of novel protein alternatives using new dynamic digestion technologies and Organ-on-Chip (OOC) intestinal modeling. Specifically, the project aims to recreate the microenvironment of the human colon, including the microbiota and its interaction with the cellular and molecular component of the epithelium, while optimizing dynamic digestion systems to mimic the biochemical conditions, microstructure, and fluidics of the three differentiated sections of the small intestine (duodenum, jejunum, and ileum).

The project will explore up to 20 alternative proteins and assess the impact of different industrial processes typical of the meat industry on the protein quality of the resulting products. The MICROGUT platform will be validated for in vitro assessment of protein quality using PDCAAS and DIAAS scores and for studying the interaction between these proteins and the microbiota using in vivo studies in rats and ex vivo studies in humans as a reference.

Beonchip S. L., will participate in the project by designing and fabricating a novel Organ on chip platform able to apply mechanical stimulation to the colon epithelium while allowing the coculture of epithelium, endothelium and gut microbiota. This innovative platform will be easily connected thanks to Beonchip´s pattented fluidic connections to a functioning digestor, mimicking the digestion process at an unprecedented level. MICROGUT aims to generate new compact and standardized technological tools to evaluate real protein quality at an industrial level and to provide scientific evidence on the impact of industrial processes on protein quality and the interaction between new alternative proteins and the intestinal microbiota.

Given the increasing trend of protein transition in the market and the limited information available on the actual nutritional quality of these alternative proteins and their impact on consumers’ long-term health, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) emphasizes the need to generate standard methodologies and scientific evidence to harmonize the dietary intake of these new products with human protein needs.

Project reference CPP2021-009123

Project funded by MCIN/AEI/10.13039/501100011033 and by the European Union-NextGenerationEU/PRTR