A model gut designed to help manufacturers more rapidly determine which ingredients will survive the rigors of the digestive tract before spending a fortune on clinical tests has been launched by product development firm International Food Network (IFN).
Dubbed the ‘GastroLab’, the device concentrates on the upper portion of the digestion system, focusing on stomach processing, and attempts to mimic the chemical and mechanical aspects of digestion, IFN chief executive Peter Salmon told FoodNavigator-USA.
Shorter lead times, lower costs
This could help firms save a lot of time and money before embarking on more expensive clinical trials, he said.
“The cost benefits of GastroLab come in when multiple screening is required during product formulation for clinical or animal studies.
“It is also very effective in reducing overall product development programs which allows our clients to reach the marketplace faster. However, it is not a substitute for a clinical test and in most cases the in vivo tests would still be needed. But since the number of early trials can be reduced, the overall project costs are lower.”
A variety of products or ingredients from enzymes, encapsulated ingredients and functional ingredients could benefit from evaluation in the GastroLab, he said.
“Of particular interest is the solubility - and hence availability - of nutritional components in the stomach and after digestion in the stomach.”
While some laboratory guts required testers to chew food and spit it into a model stomach, the GastroLab attempted to replicate the steps that took place in the mouth, he said.
“A step is added to replicate the mastication of the material before testing in the stomach mode. IFN reduces the food size, places it in the masticator, add enzymes, and simulates chewing.”
He added: “A predetermined pH profile is used to treat the material in a mixed vessel. Experimental monitoring is set up depending on the component of interest and the requirements of the analytical protocol. The effect of neutralization from acid condition is also assessed.”
Lower digestive tract is not part of the system - yet
While it was a useful way of determining which ingredients survived to make it into the intestines, what happened to them beyond this point was currently beyond the scope of the GastroLab, he said.
“The lower tract is currently not within the scope of our ongoing work but could be addressed if needed for a client’s project. Our approach could include collaboration with other labs with expertise in these areas.”
But he added: “An advantage to our system is that we are not limited to a fixed configuration. Setup and analytical protocol are customized for the product of interest and the desired product’s characteristics and function. If the client has an idea of the final food forms [in which a functional ingredient might be incorporated], food prototypes developed in our lab can also be assessed in Gastrolab as part of the product performance evaluation.”
While model gut-type systems were still relatively new, there was growing demand for such technology as firms tried to reduce lead times by speeding up the pre-clinical testing process and optimizing ingredients at an earlier stage, he said.
“Coupling these laboratory studies with traditional product development provides clients with the information they need early on in their development programs.”
IFN - which has offices in Ithaca, New York; Naples, Florida; and Reading in the UK - works with food, beverage, nutritional products and supplement manufacturers on every aspect of the new product development process from concept generation to launch.
Click here to read FoodNavigator-USA’s interview with IFN’s Scott Martling on how to speed up the new product development process.
Click here to read an interview with IFN's UK group leader Nick Henson on why so many new products still fail at our sister title FoodManufacture.co.uk.