Electrical Measurement of Gastrointestinal Transport

Intestinal absorption of glucose and amino acids generates a small electric current across the epithelium.  With my supervisors, Drs Roy Levin and Derek Holdsworth, I devised a way a measuring these in human volunteers using an intestinal tube filled with saline as one electrode and a subcutaneous cannula as the other.  The electrodes were connected via salt agar bridges and calomel half cells to a sensitive millivoltmeter.  By this means, I was able to define the kinetics of glucose and amino acid absorption in normal subjects and patients with coeliac disease, study the absorption of dipeptides and disaccharides, and demonstrate how intestinal secretion might be associated with contractile activity.

  1. Read, N.W., Holdsworth, C.D. and Levin, R.J. (1974) Electrical measurement of intestinal absorption of glucose in man. Lancet ii: 624-627. Read, N.W., Levin, R.J. and Holdsworth, C.D. (1976) Electrogenic glucose absorption in untreated and treated coeliac disease. Gut 17: 444-449. Greenwood, B. and Read, N.W. (1986) Vagal control of fluid transport, transmural potential difference, and motility in the ferret jejunum. Am. J. Physiol. 12: G651-654.