How nanoparticles impact your gut


Rebecca Pool

Monday, February 4, 2019 - 09:15
Atomic force microscopy image of silica nanoparticles adhering to an intestinal bacterium. [Stauber Group, Mainz University Medical Center]
Germany-based researchers have unveiled a striking atomic force microscopy image that shows silica nanoparticles adhering to an intestinal bacterium.
Professor Roland Stauber from Otolaryngology, Head, and Neck Surgery at the Mainz University Medical Center, and colleagues, have been studying the effects of nanoparticles on intestinal microorganisms, and how these tiny particles affect bacteria lifecycle.
Their cell culture studies revealed that silica nanoparticles inhibited the infectivity of Helicobacter pylori, which is considered to be one of the main agents involved in gastric cancer.
Synthetic nanoparticles are already used as additives to improve the characteristics of food, but the researchers want to find out if the particles could be used more efficiently and safely in food
"Prior to our studies, nobody really looked whether and how nano-additives directly influence the gastrointestinal flora," highlights Stauber. "Hence, we studied at a wide range of technical nanoparticles with clearly defined properties in order to mimic what happens to currently used or potential future nanosized food additives."
E.coli bacteria and nanoparticles were studied using a JPK Nanowizard 2 atomic force microscope with a Zeiss AxioImager M2m fluorescence microscope.
Electron microscopy was also used to study nanoparticle-bacteria complexes.
"Although still speculative, one may envisage [being able] to rationally exploit natural or synthetic nanosized food additives in the future, to achieve positive 'side-effects' by shaping the microbiome and/or by inhibiting pathogens, such as H. pylori," says Stauber. 
"The challenge now is to identify nanoparticles that fit the desired purpose, perhaps even as probiotic food supplements in the future," he adds. "Challenge accepted."
Open access research is published in Nature: Science of Food.
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