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J Theor Biol. 2010 Sep 7;266(1):189-201. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2010.05.040. Epub 2010 Jun 16.

Mathematical modelling of carbohydrate degradation by human colonic microbiota.

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Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA), UMR1319, MIcrobiologie de l'ALImentation au service de la Santé humaine (MICALIS), 78350 Jouy-en-Josas, France.


The human colon is an anaerobic ecosystem that remains largely unexplored as a result of its limited accessibility and its complexity. Mathematical models can play a central role for a better insight into its dynamics. In this context, this paper presents the development of a mathematical model of carbohydrate degradation. Our aim was to provide an in silico approach to contribute to a better understanding of the fermentation patterns in such an ecosystem. Our mathematical model is knowledge-based, derived by writing down mass-balance equations. It incorporates physiology of the intestine, metabolic reactions and transport phenomena. The model was used to study various nutritional scenarios and to assess the role of the mucus on the system behavior. Model simulations provided an adequate qualitative representation of the human colon. Our model is complementary to experimental studies on human colonic fermentation, which, of course, is not meant to replace. It may be helpful to gain insight on questions that are still difficult to elucidate by experimentation and suggest future experiments.

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