PoopSci: What's the special recipe for fake feces?
Emma Allen-Vercoe: It contains things like the indigestible cellulose that's left after a meal has passed through your digestive tract and down to your distal gut, the end of the line for digestion. It's pretty nasty-looking. It's a brown sludge, it's got lumps of starch, and it's kind of gloopy. It doesn't look or smell very appetizing.
PS: How do you turn that sludge into a fecal transplant?
EAV: Robogut. Robogut is made of six big beakers full of that sludge that are warmed to body temperature. And we add the bacteria from a small amount of human feces. Since oxygen is poison to anaerobic gut bacteria, each vessel is sealed to make it airtight, while sensors monitor temperature and acidity.
PS: What's the worst part about working with synthetic poop?
EAV: Because of regulations, we can't just flush the waste down the toilet. So we have to sterilize it by cooking it at a very high temperature and then throw it out. That means we have to do it at night when no one is there, because the whole building starts to smell like poop.
Robogut, you guys. Robogut.
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