Magazine article USA TODAY

Gut-Lining Gel Can Change Rapidly

Magazine article USA TODAY

Gut-Lining Gel Can Change Rapidly

Article excerpt

In the ongoing hustle and bustle of our intestines, where bacteria and food intermingle regularly, there is another substance that, to the surprise of researchers, has been found to change rapidly: the gel that lines the gut. A study at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, is the first to show how the structure of this gut gel, or mucus, can change in the presence of certain substances, such as bacteria and polymers --a class of long-chained molecules that includes dietary fiber.

The work, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could lead to the development of new drugs or diets for intestinal conditions such as irritable bowel disease.

The intestinal tract is lined with a mucus gel that acts as a protective barrier between the insides of our bodies and the outside world. The gel lets in nutrients and largely blocks out bacteria, preventing infections. It also regulates how some drugs are delivered elsewhere in the body. …

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