Gut microbiome studies have been gaining popularity over the years, especially with the development of new technologies (e.g. metataxonomics, metagenomics, metatranscriptomics, and metabonomics) that makes it easier for researchers to characterize the composition and functionality of these complex microbial communities. The goal of these studies is to identify a microorganism, group of microbes, or microbial metabolite which correlates with a disease state (e.g. inflammatory bowel disease, colorectal cancer, and obesity). Many of these are cross-sectional studies, where fecal samples from a group of diseased individuals are compared with those from a group of healthy individuals at a single time point. However, there are a wide range of variables that can affect the gut microbiota of humans which make mechanistic studies challenging. Longitudinal studies are required for research to more reliably correlate interventions or disease status to microbiota composition and functionality. However, longitudinal studies in humans and animals are difficult, expensive, and time-consuming. This review will discuss in vitro gut fermentation models and how they can be used to perform longitudinal studies that complement in vivo microbiome studies. Gut fermentation models support the growth of stable, reproducible, and diverse microbial communities in a tightly controlled environment set to mimic the conditions microbes encounter in the gastrointestinal tract. Gut fermentation models will make it easier for researchers to perform mechanistic studies and aid in the development of novel treatments that are both targeted and maintained over time.

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