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A scientific digest

india Updated: Nov 14, 2006 04:54 IST

Not least among the features of the world’s first artificial stomach created by a team of British scientists is that it can even vomit. For the uninitiated, this is not puerile science — for the first time, a stomach has been constructed that can mimic physiological movements of gut muscles. Experiments so far have dealt with observing the chemical reactions of various enzymes or chemicals on different foods in the stomach, the ‘what’ of digestion. The new contraption of high-power plastic and metal extends the jam jar experiment to answer the how, when and where of the digestive process. It was also difficult to make the material for the stomach lining, as it had to be sturdy enough to withstand the stomach’s corrosive elements.

As anyone will appreciate, the workings of the stomach cannot be an aesthetic affair to watch, especially for those who can’t quite stomach the inside story. But business houses are excited about the new stomach, which looks like what a robot may have inside him. A cookie company apparently wants to buy the machine to see how its biscuit nutrients are affected in the roller-coaster ride down the alimentary canal. Another wants to check if it can use its food products to carry extra nutrients. In new-age fashion, of course, the most probable use will be by companies who want to develop super-nutrients like obesity-fighting foods that will trick the stomach into thinking it’s full.

The fake stomach has half the capacity of an average human sac. So far, its most adventurous meal has been a bowl of vegetable soup. Well, it’s early days yet. Let’s wait till it graduates to murg lababdar and then perhaps it will learn to burp too.