The only artificial digestive system in Poland, and one of the 9 such systems in the world, is in use at the Olimp Laboratories Research and Development Centre in Pustynia, near Dębica. It allows the company to carry out unique studies and experiments.
It is an incredibly innovative and unique project on a global scale. There are only a few companies in the world which use such an advanced system and those studies, and only one in Poland – at Olimp Labs. “The Artificial Digestive System allows for the incredibly accurate determination of the mutual effect of different food products, dietary supplements and medications on their absorption and, similarly important, the composition of the gut microbiota”, says Dr. Eng. Piotr Kaczka, Scientific and Medicinal Product Director at Olimp Laboratories. The gut microbiota, also referred to as the gut flora, is a group of microorganisms, mainly bacteria, which form a complex ecosystem in the digestive system.
An artificial digestive system mimics the natural digestive system in the human body. However, it helps eliminate different factors that may affect study results if they are carried out in the human body. The results of the studies carried out using the artificial digestive system accurately mimic the reality. “Thanks to the artificial digestive system, we have successfully introduced very careful monitoring of experimental conditions. We maintain specific temperatures, as well as the timing of meals, tested substances and their doses... By excluding human testing, we also reduce the costs and shorten the timeline, so the necessary tests can be performed much faster”, explains Dr Eng. Piotr Kaczka.
“Every reactor responds to a particular part of the digestive system”, explains Dr Eng. Andrzej Łyskowski, Research and Innovation Specialist at Olimp Labs. “Here, we have the stomach, the small intestine and then three filled-up jars, which are the subsequent parts of the large intestine. The gastric contents are pumped three times a day. It is a special liquid mix. The ingredients are different for children’s and adults’ digestive systems, and are completely different for studies on the diseases of the digestive system. The whole process is monitored by a computer system.”
Experiments last for minimum 6 weeks. It takes two weeks to populate the digestive system with the microbiota, another two weeks to balance it, and then two weeks to supplement it with the selected product to see its effects.
The first experiment carried out in the artificial digestive system at Olimp Laboratories related to the effects of an antibiotic on the composition of the digestive system microbiota. “An antibiotic cannot differentiate between bacteria which have a positive effect on our body and the ones that cause a disease. Generally, we destroy the gut microbiota by taking an antibiotic. We would like to know the factors that could protect our healthy flora, or the factors that could help restore its balance faster and more effectively”, explains Andrzej Łyskowski. “We will observe the changes and see if the substances that we chose for testing will later protect the microbiota or support its recreation. It will take some time before we get the results.”
The experiments using the artificial digestive system allow for advanced studies, such as the effect of the microbiota on the development and course of neurodegenerative diseases, e.g. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. The results of these studies may be a ground-braking step towards the determination of innovative solutions for supporting the treatment of these diseases in the feature.
The system was purchased as part of a project funded by the European Union: “The development of the Olimp Laboratories Research and Development Centre in the improvement of safety and effectiveness of dietary supplements.”