Wanted: Vegan poop for liver disease research

Researchers at Amsterdam UMC are looking for vegan faeces. They need the poop for research into fatty liver. The researchers hope with this study to learn more about how to fight liver disease.

“Of course it sounds very strange that you need poo”, begins Quinten Augustijn, doctor-researcher at Amsterdam UMC. He is one of the researchers and does this together with internist Onno Holleboom. “We give the poop of a healthy person to someone who is sick, in order to fight certain diseases.”

It’s like this: there are many bacteria in the intestines of people and these bacteria help with digestion and other processes in the body, among other things. In some people, these bacteria don’t work well. By ‘giving’ the faeces of a healthy person to a sick person, you also pass on the healthy bacteria that can help fight the disease.

Fatty liver

In the case of this research, it concerns the disease fatty liver. “That is also called NASH. It is a liver disease that is becoming increasingly common and serious because more and more people are living longer with obesity and/or type 2 diabetes, but it also has genetic backgrounds,” says Augustijn. “It can lead to liver inflammation and scars on your liver. In the worst case, your liver can stop working or you can develop liver cancer. But that is a small part. There is twice as much risk of cardiovascular disease.”

A previous study found that poo transplants seem to work in fighting fatty liver. “Normally, this goes through the stomach with a tube and it goes towards the duodenum. We do this in such a way that people do not see that the feces is entering. About every eight weeks you give the patient a feces transplant and that must be as fresh as possible .” The transplants are still under investigation and are not yet a regular treatment.

Poo Capsules

The two researchers are also going to try a different way for the transplants. “We are working together with a pharmacist. Research has been conducted into whether we can put it in capsules. The capsules are designed in such a way that it only opens after the stomach, so there is no chance that you will notice anything from the poo,” says Augustijn about the new method. What is important is that the capsules are not chewed.

In addition to the poop capsules, the researchers also give the patients extra bacteria and food for the bacteria. “Bacteria never work alone, but always together. We hope that the new bacteria will work well together and ensure a healthier intestinal flora.”

Vegans have the best gut bacteria

So why are the researchers specifically looking for vegans? “Vegans have a different composition of bacteria than other people, who make some substances more and others less. We want as many bacteria as possible that produce good substances, vegans have a lot. That is why it is the best group.”

Augustijn has already received many applications for the call and is busy with it. “We aim for four or five good donors. To become a donor you have to go through a strict screening.” The screening is done so that the transplant is as safe as possible. “There should be no covid, HIV or other pathogenic things in the poo. We must ensure that the risk is zero.”

The five selected donors have to keep busy to meet the researchers’ demand. “A donor has to donate ninety times. We pay them for that, by the way.” For each donation you will receive 50 euros from the researchers.