GutGuide: Affordable gut testing for personalized nutrition

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11 Dec 2018 --- With the rise of personalized nutrition and the growing interest in gut health has come an array of personalized gut testing services. In this space, Finnish company GutGuide is seeking to offer reasonably-priced, patient-specific treatment and supplementation to a variety of afflictions connected to the gut, based on the company’s research into oral and gut microbiota. The role for a good functioning microbiota in skin health will be the next platform for the technology.

GutGuide is the culmination of the efforts of microbiologists Annika Mäyrä, Veli-Matti Mäkinen and Dr. Eveliina Munukka. 

GutGuide focuses on microbiota analysis using its cost-efficient, patented, flow cytometric technology. This has identified almost 70 percent of gut bacteria groups and yeasts, with research focusing on obesity, IBS, celiac disease and even depression. The company also offers personalized microbiological recommendations and develop products for oral and intestinal health for private customers, companies and research groups. 

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At the cost of €149 (US$170), GutGuide seeks to make gut testing a widespread, affordable and convenient practice. Utilizing a new way of sampling that can be done from the comfort of home and by comparing the samples against an extensive database of individuals with a healthy gut (coined as GutIndex), the company wishes to reinforce the need for more precision in the monitoring and personalized treatment of the gut. 

“We started the lab five years ago and wanted to focus on the personalized analysis of the oral and gut microbiota using special technology,” GutGuide co-founder and CEO, Annika Mäyrä, tells NutritionInsight

“The patented cytometric methods we have developed are cost-efficient and help a lot with difficult analyses. We are doing a lot of analyses on patients and have enhanced the process itself,” Mäyrä says. 

The company has developed a liquid stabilizer, in order for fecal samples to be stabilized and the patient can send them by traditional mail to the lab. There the samples are analyzed and the patient receives the results within two weeks along with recommendations. “It is a very personalized type of testing,” Mäyrä comments.

The company has a database of healthy adults’ gut microbiome analyses and compares the data received from customers to it, in order to see if there are any imbalances in the gut.

“We get a lot of samples from people who have disorders in the intestinal tract, either from health professionals or individuals. Then we see what the balance is of the different microbial groups and give recommendations on what could be done,” she explains. 

“Two or three months after they have applied the recommendations, adjusted their diets and used some probiotics or prebiotics, they send us another sample and we run new analyses to see if the recommendations are working or not,” Mäyrä adds. 

Individuals and health professionals can create an account of their own and access their results and progress. The data bank is only used by GutGuide and the information collected is private and well protected.Click to Enlarge

The company has several patents in place for each issue they aim to research and combat.

“We have done quite a lot of work with different target groups. So we already have a patent on obesity, proving there is a connection in the balance of microbial groups connected to obesity. We have a patent on serotonin connected to serotonin levels in the gut and a third one on celiac disease. We already have data on IBS and we are collecting more,” notes Mäyrä.

Cost competitive
There are three different types of testing that one may opt for, with GutGuide. The main GutIndex analysis test costs €149 (US$170) and includes the detection of seven different microbial groups, meaning about 70 percent of the microbiota.

The GutIndex Mini, at a lower price, is the next step after the first analysis and application of dietary adjustments, to determine whether the recommendations were beneficial to the patient. “There we detect two big groups of microbiota,” adds Mäyrä. 

“Then the third one is called GutIndex Visceral and we detect the groups which are connected to our patents on obesity and visceral fat,” says Mäyrä. “We actually have many medical professionals and gastroenterologists as well as nutritionists who are already using it.” 

Challenges for implementation
In order for the samples to travel well and produce reliable results, effectively and at a low price, the GutGuide had to come up with new technology. 

“The first challenge was to stabilize the liquid. We wanted something that would make it easy to take the sample at home and send it by mail to us. Otherwise, one would have to send the fecal samples in frozen form and that is very difficult and expensive. That was a big task and we were able to overcome that by coming up with a liquid stabilizer that solidifies the fecal samples,” explains Mäyrä.

Through constant research, the company is adding more bacterial groups to their pool of information when they are relevant to certain target groups.

Based on the results we get and the research we have conducted, for instance, in IBS or celiac disease, the company accordingly develops group-specific products. 

“We have probiotics, prebiotics and immuno-honey which is for pollen allergies through the gut. We also have a variety of oral products which are very potent in connection to the gut as well. At the moment we are developing products for different target groups,” Mäyrä says. Click to EnlargeThe GutGuide process. 

Rather than the popular fructooligosaccharides (FOS) of inulin and oligofructose, galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), which the company deems unsuitable for people with a sensitive gut, they work with xylooligosaccharides (XOS). 

“We have been testing it and it is very good for the gut. It is optimal for the sensitive gut, causes no disorders and boosts the beneficial groups very specifically,” notes Mäyrä. 

What comes next
Next on the company’s agenda is the study and research of the skin microbiome in connection to the gut, followed by the release of a new product to treat atopic skin within the coming year. This will be followed by research which connects gingivitis inflammations in the oral area to inflammations in the gut.

“The innovation which will be launched in the new year is a new product for atopic skin. We have seen that there are also imbalances in the gut microbiota of atopic people. It can also be treated with nutrition,” says Mäyrä.

Lastly, the company wishes to expand in the European market.

“We have established the system in Finland. We mostly want to further expand to more European countries. It is possible to send the sample to Finland via mail. The other option is to license the technology to some other lab and transfer the know-how. We haven’t done it yet. We want it to proceed slowly and check that every step is working well,” she adds. 

“We are looking to expand in Europe mostly because the database is based on the western diet. If we had to go to Asia, for example, we would need to collect data and form a database there, as their diet is very different from ours. There is a link between ethnicity and the gut microbiome,” Mäyrä concludes. This link was highlighted in a study that we reported on this week.

By Kristiana Lalou

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