(July 24, 2019) -- A research team led by Tufts University engineers has developed a 3D printed pill that samples bacteria found in the gut -- known as the microbiome -- as it passes through the gastrointestinal tract (GI).

The 3D printed pill described in the journal Advanced Intelligent Systems represents the first non-invasive diagnostic tool capable of providing a profile of microbiome populations throughout the entire GI tract, according to the researchers.

Current methods of sampling the microbiome involve analysis of fecal DNA and metabolites, but that approach provides little information of the environment upstream of the distal colon, where bacterial species can vary significantly.

The vast majority of these bacteria have a beneficial, supportive role in digestion and protection against disease.

When the natural balance of the microbiome is skewed, a condition called "dysbiosis" occurs, which can be associated with inflammation, susceptibility to infections, and even the exacerbation of other diseases such as cancer.

Research is increasingly unveiling specific microbiome metabolites that have beneficial or protective effects for the host against disease.

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