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New Microbiome Research Tool Offers Potential to Revolutionise Drug Development

LUXEMBOURG, May 11, 2016 /PRNewswire/ --

The University of Luxembourg Announces Breakthrough HuMiX Model in Nature Communications

The University of Luxembourg today announced the publication of a research article in the internationally renowned scientific journal Nature Communications. The article is based on research on the interaction between microorganisms in the gut and the human body through the development of the artificial 'HuMiX' model.

HuMiX, 'Human-Microbial X(cross)-talk', represents an 'organ-on-a-chip' model for the human gastrointestinal tract. The model is developed to study the interaction between the microbiome, the community of all microbial organisms that live in and on our body, and the human host - all in vitro. The model and resulting insights will allow a better understanding of whether changes in the gut's microbiome cause disease, or if such changes are a consequence of the disease.

The human microbiome is emerging as a key area of research within which HuMiX is the only model able to replicate the community of microorganisms in the gut while also allowing the study of their impact on human cell physiology. This technological breakthrough has not only the potential to change the way patients are given drugs by pre-screening their effects on patient-derived cells and microbiota outside of the body, but also open up a new market segment for HuMiX in clinical drug development.

Commenting on the article, Prof. Dr. Paul Wilmes, Principal Investigator at Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) of the University of Luxembourg and senior author on the paper said: "Insights into the function of the human microbiome are a key to our understanding of human health and disease. By mimicking its function and the repercussions of distinct microbiota on human cells, we are now able to better understand the gut microbiome and also how it reacts to for example distinct drugs or dietary regimes."

The key benefit of HuMiX technology is that it can help determine a drug's suitability in humans and improve their overall success in the drug development pipeline. The model will for the first time allow pre-clinical testing in an environment that is analogous to the human system. Animal models, such as germ-free mice exhibit important limitations with respect to the topology of their gastrointestinal tract, their diet and, importantly, their immune system. As the pharmacokinetics of drugs largely depend on the microbiome, of a 1000 drugs in clinical trials that are tested on mice, only a third are successful due to some of these shortcomings.

Dr. Pranjul Shah, now Business Development and Innovation Expert at the LCSB and first author of the study also sees economic potential in the technology and is preparing as Entrepreneur-in-Residence for a spin-off company - OrgaMime. "The human microbiome market is one of the fastest growing niche markets at the interface of therapeutics and diagnostics. With the broad focus of the microbiome industry, even at pessimistic estimates, the industry is expected to reach $658m by 2023. HuMiX is well positioned to be an enabling technology for a range of drug discovery programs at newly funded start-ups, pharma as well as nutraceutical companies. It has the potential to help further understand and consequently aid in the discovery of new treatments for obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases."

This publication is the result of an interdisciplinary collaboration between scientific teams at the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine of the University of Luxembourg, the Center for Applied NanoBioscience and Medicine at the University of Arizona and the Department of Infection and Immunity at the Luxembourg Institute of Health.

The development of the HuMiX model was achieved through support from the Luxembourg National Research Fund's ATTRACT, CORE, Inter mobility, Accompanying Measures 2c, Proof-of-Concept and AFR funding programmes.

The article, 'A microfluidics based in vitro model of gastrointestinal human-microbe interface', can be found here: DOI: 10.1038/NCOMMS11535

About Microbiome  

The microbiome describes the community of all microbial organisms that live in and on our body, the organisms in our gut amount to approximately 1.5 kg of our own body mass. For the past 5 years, this eco-system within our body has been under intense study for its potentially tremendous impact on human health and disease.

About HuMiX 

HuMiX stands for "Human-Microbial X(cross)-talk". HuMiX represents an 'organ-on-a-chip' model for the human gastrointestinal tract to study of interactions between human and microbial cells as they occur in the gut.

About LCSB  

The LCSB is an interdisciplinary research centre at the University of Luxembourg. It is accelerating biomedical research by closing the link between systems biology and medical research. Collaboration between biologists, medical and computer scientists, physicists, engineers as well as mathematicians is offering new insights in complex systems like cells, organs and organisms. These findings are essential for understanding principal mechanisms of disease pathogenesis and for developing new tools in diagnostics and therapy. Neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's disease and description of diseases as networks are in the focus of LCSB's research. The Centre has established strategic partnerships with leading biomedical laboratories worldwide and with all major biological and medical research units in Luxembourg. The LCSB fosters collaboration with industrial partners and has founded four spin-off companies to accelerate the translation of fundamental research results into (clinical) applications.

About the University of Luxembourg 

The University of Luxembourg is a multilingual European research university. We are a modern institution with a personal atmosphere, close to European institutions, innovative companies and the financial place Luxembourg. With nearly 6,200 students and about 1,600 employees from all over the globe, our University offers a unique mix of international excellence and national relevance, delivering knowledge for society and businesses. The University of Luxembourg is the motor of the national system of knowledge and innovation with priorities for research in computational sciences and ICT, systems biomedicine, European law, international finance and educational sciences. Founded in 2003, the University of Luxembourg ranks 14 worldwide in the Times Higher Education (THE) 150 Under 50 Rankings 2015-2016 and comes in 2nd in terms of internationality overall.

For further information, please contact :

Université du Luxembourg
Sabine Mosch, Communication Advisor
Tel: +352 46 66 44 6423  

Hume Brophy
Supriya Mathur, Elle Kress
Tel: +44 207 862 6381

SOURCE University of Luxembourg
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