Research uncovers how guinea pig gut forms solid fecal pellets

New research from Flinders University has uncovered more details of how the guinea pig’s gut forms solid fecal pellets, providing potential information that could help in the management of human gut issues.

How exactly the gut forms and shapes fecal content is largely unknown, despite the fact that the way humans and animals poop is directly linked to gastrointestinal upset and other health issues.

Now, new research led by Professor Marcello Costa of Flinders University and published in the prestigious Journal of Physiology demonstrated a major breakthrough in our understanding of how the guinea pig gut forms solid fecal pellets.

We were able to demonstrate for the first time that the guinea pig colon is not only able to control the propulsion of both solid and fluid contents, but that the neural circuits it contains are also able to separate homogeneous fecal contents from the colon. proximal. into separate pellets once the material reaches the distal colon before being expelled.

Marcello Costa, professor of neurophysiology, Flinders University

Co-author Professor Nick Spencer of the College of Medicine and Public Health at Flinders University says this mini-brain, also known as the “first brain,” is capable of generating complex motor behaviors that actually shape the semi-solid stool in the proximal colon, turning into an appropriately sized solid content in the mid-distal colon.

“This shows the remarkable ability of the enteric nervous system to perform complex motor behaviors even when disconnected from the central nervous system,” says Professor Spencer.

The study was the result of the combination of several complex techniques in which the mechanical and electrical activity of the intestine was recorded simultaneously, techniques developed by Professor Costa’s team at Flinders University.

This recent research underscores the likely similarity among all species of mammals, including humans, that these neural circuits are involved in the formation of feces ”,

Marcello Costa, professor of neurophysiology, Flinders University

Understanding how the intestines of animals and humans work is integral to understanding and long-term management of functional complications that can occur in humans, such as diarrhea or fecal urgency, which often occur after colorectal surgeries. involving the sigmoid-rectal junction; where the large intestine meets the rectum.

These discoveries represent the culmination of a lifetime’s work for Professor Costa, who began his research on the humble colon of the guinea pig in the 1970s and is one of the pioneers in studies of the enteric nervous system, which generated the new field of neurogastroenterology.

An accompanying outlook article titled “From Watery and Mellow to Soft and Shaped: What Shapes Our Stools?” was published alongside the research.


Journal reference:

Costa, M., et al. (2021) New intrinsic neurogenic and myogenic mechanisms underlying the formation of fecal pellets along the large intestine of guinea pigs. Journal of Physiology.

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