Large molecules from dietary fiber can change gut environment through physical forces

phys.org | 1/29/2019 | Staff
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Large molecules from dietary fiber, called polymers, can physically influence the environment in the small intestine by causing solid particles to group together (or aggregate), according to research published in eLife.

The study, performed in mice, provides new insight on how various types of solid particles found within the small intestine—including microbes, cell debris, particles for drug delivery, and food granules—move together through the gut. This is important because the size and composition of such aggregates could potentially affect the gut environment, including how nutrients and drug particles are absorbed during digestion.

Particles - Form - Uptake - Drugs - Nutrients

"When particles in the gut form aggregates it can impact the uptake of drugs and nutrients, as well as the function of microorganisms in the gut. But little is understood about how these aggregates form," says first author Asher Preska Steinberg, a graduate student in Chemistry at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, US.

A diversity of polymers exists naturally in the gut; they include secretions (such as mucins and immunoglobulins) and dietary polymers, including dietary fibers. It is well known that host-secreted polymers can cause the aggregation of microbes through chemical binding. However, this new work shows that polymers from dietary fiber can also cause aggregation through physical interactions that are dependent on the physical properties of the polymers, such as their molecular weight and concentration, instead of chemical interactions.

Fibers - Context - Nutrition - Gut - Microbes

"We often think about dietary fibers in the context of nutrition and feeding our gut microbes, but like all polymers, they are also governed by the laws of polymer physics. We wanted to investigate whether physical forces induced by these polymers play a role in structuring particles in the small intestine,"...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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