'Physi-ome’ assessment of differences in digestion of food structures

Project Code: 10451923

Faculty: Liggins Institute

Department: Liggins Institute

Main Supervisor: Dr Amber Milan (amil520)

Application open date: 16 Jul 2019

Application deadline: 30 Nov 2020

Enrolment information: NZ Citizens, NZ Permanent Residents, International


Digestive processes influence the delivery of nutrients to support optimal health. Research on the digestion of foods often relies on in vitro digestion or animal models to understand the complex structural changes that take place during food passage through the gastrointestinal tract. In humans, unless invasive technologies such as radio-labelled tracers are used, only indirect assessment of the bioavailability or digestibility of nutrients may be achieved by subjective assessment or biological measures in peripheral circulation.

The ‘physi-ome’ describes a range of physiological tools that may be used to capture physiological aspects of digestion, non-invasively. Tools such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), offers a non-invasive means to capture information about features such as gastric emptying, physiochemical characteristics of digesta, and intestinal transit. The development and applications of non-invasive tools including MRI, or sensors to capture gastrointestinal electrical signals, deformation and sounds may be a useful means to more directly characterise the hidden digestion of foods.

The current project aims to use MRI imaging, and other physi-ome tools, to assess the digestion of different food structures to understand how different foods affect digestive processes.

What we are looking for in a successful applicant

Background in health sciences and an interest in nutrition and physiology.


To optimise and validate assessment tools for the measurement of digestive function using non-invasive and novel physi-ome technologies and techniques

To investigate the relationship between physi-ome assessment tools and both biological markers and patient reported outcomes

To apply these novel physi-ome assessment tools to the investigation of differences in digestive function across differing foods, food structures, and digestive function in human subjects

Other information