Phillip Tarr of Washington University in the U.S. is developing a method to evaluate gut permeability by measuring levels of ingested fluorescent molecules non-invasively through the skin. Gut permeability is increased in infants with environmental enteropathy, which is associated with impaired growth and development, and is prevalent in developing countries. Current tests are problematic due to the required collection and handling of body fluids from young children, and can produce varying results. In contrast, this new method would allow direct measurement in the field, and be suitable for resource-poor settings. In Phase I, they showed that orally ingested pyrazine-based fluorophores could be measured through the skin and could detect gut injury in a rat model of enteropathy. In Phase II, they will optimize the fluorophores to improve solubility, and evaluate them in a preliminary trial in human volunteers.
More information about Novel Enabling Tools and Models Supporting Development of Interventions for Enteric Dysfunction (Round 12)