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Use of the Simulator of the Human Intestinal Microbial Ecosystem (SHIME®) to study the fate of food ingredients and actives


Davide Gottardi1,*, Pieter van den Abbeele1, Massimo Marzorati2
*Corresponding author
1. ProDigest BVBA, Technologiepark 4, B-9052 Ghent, Belgium
2. Center for Microbial Ecology and Technology (CMET), Ghent University,
Coupure Links 653, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium


The development of novel food ingredients, supplements or drugs demands consistent studies to validate their mechanism of release, absorption and action. Human in vivo trials are the gold standard to test one or few compounds, but extensive screening of novel products is often unfeasible. As a result, in vitro models represent a suitable complementary tool to test the fate of novel ingredients and molecules in the gastrointestinal tract (GIT). In this review, we describe the main parameters of the harmonized in vitro static model and we further provide practical examples of the use of the Simulator of the Human Intestinal Microbial Ecosystem (SHIME®) technology for testing the fate of compounds delivered in the GIT.


The market for food ingredients with biological activities (“functional foods”) is projected to reach $2.5 billion by 2020 (1). Over the last two decades, this market attracted food, pharmaceutical and retail businesses, aiming at earning higher returns and a competitive edge (2). Novel compounds are being developed to prevent chronic illnesses (such as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, and osteoporosis), to increase energy, boosting immune system and general wellbeing (2). To exert their functionality in the body, these compounds must be successfully released from the food matrix/delivering system (i.e. bioaccessibility) and being absorbed in the GIT (i.e. bioavailability). The first step is crucial for digestibility and allergenicity of the product (3), while the second impacts its bioactivity. As a result, studying the activities of novel food, ingredients and pharmaceuticals during the passage through the GIT is essential (4). Human studies are indispensable, prior to product commercialization. However, ethical and time restrictions, as well as the high costs involved, are some of their drawbacks. On the contrary, in vitro model ...

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