A Look into the Gut

In June 2016 scientists implanted a transparent graphene sensor with a customized abdominal window for simultaneous optical and electrical recording of the enteric nervous system in mice in vivo. This use of technology to learn more about the ENS is particularly exciting since little is known about this part of the autonomic nervous system, yet it is likely responsible for IBD, IBS and other gastrointestinal disorders. A 3-D printed insert was designed and surgically implanted into the animal to stabilize the intestine without blocking its motility functions, a task that previous studies had failed to succeed at. Researchers were able to visualize and record in real time ENS activity to stimulations from various NTs including serotonin, acetylcholine and bethanechol. Furthermore, researchers were also able to elicit ENS activity through light stimulus. Although the physiological implications of this data is not yet clear, it is exciting that technology is now available to better understand in real time the functioning of the ENS system in real time. Perhaps such a technology will be easily implantable in humans to better characterize individual dysfunction of the ENS for those suffering from IBS.


  1. Rakhilin, Nikolai, Bradley Barth, Jiahn Choi, Nini L. Muñoz, Subhash Kulkarni, Jason S. Jones, David M. Small, Yu-Ting Cheng, Yingqiu Cao, Colleen Lavinka, Edwin Kan, Xinzhong Dong, Michael Spencer, Pankaj Pasricha, Nozomi Nishimura, and Xiling Shen. “Simultaneous optical and electrical in vivo analysis of the enteric nervous system.” Nature Communications7 (2016): 11800. Web.

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