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Gut Biology Group

Ontogeny and physiology of the gut

an image showing the cells lining the intestine


The digestive tract has a dual function where an effective nutrient absorption collides with its barrier properties in host defence. A layer of epithelial cells sealed with tight junctions and the gut lymphoid tissue (GALT) assures an effective barrier function, which in young animals is immature. The postnatal development of the gastrointestinal (GI) system in mammals is genetically programmed, but is, to an unknown extent, regulated by external factors such as the diet and the gut microflora. These factors can influence the growth of the GI tract, the age-related pattern of appearance of digestive enzymes and the decreased intestinal macromolecular permeability at gut closure, normally timed with weaning in young rodents.

The aim of our research is to study the regulatory mechanism of gut ontogeny by analysis of the expression of crucial genes and the influence of luminal cues, via direct enterocyte interaction or via hormonal and immune-mediated pathways. We are also studying if microbial exposure can influence maturation of the gut digestive and immune systems.

Major current research areas;

  • Factors affecting gut maturation in young mammals
  • Gut barrier function (Gut macromolecular permeability)
  • Regulation of the exocrine pancreas
  • Total exocrine insufficiency models in pigs

The digestive, absorptive and barrier properties of the GI tract, as well as the function and regulation of exocrine pancreas, can be studied at three levels of complexity;

  • In vivo by controlled feeding of intact or chronically operated conscious animals
  • In situ by using gut perfusion techniques in anaesthetised animals
  • Ex vivo (in vitro) by incubating isolated gut segments with marker molecules
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People involved


Scientific partners:

  • Charlotte Erlanson-Albertsson (Experimental Medical Science, Faculty of Medicine, LU)
  • Siv Ahrné (Applied Nutrition and Food Chemistry, LU)
  • Göran Molin (Applied Nutrition and Food Chemistry, LU)
  • Jörgen Svendsen (JBT, Swedish Agricultural University, SLU)
  • Jos Botermans (JBT, Swedish Agricultural University, SLU)

Industrial partners: