After looking at various studies of human intestinal bacteria, Scientific American's Katherine Harmon suggests that the microorganisms play a larger part in human health than previously thought, even at times overshadowing genetics. One key study, Harmon says, is a catalog of about 3.3 million human gut microbe genes — research being done by a team of BGI scientists (which our sister publication GenomeWeb Daily News covered here). Harmon also points to work from Emory University's Andrew Gewirtz which has focused on a particular host gene that seems affect intestinal microbes. Those researchers found that a loss of the TLR5 gene in mice leads to a shift in the microbiota communities and an increase in insulin resistance, obesity, and other metabolic disruptions. Gerwitz thinks that inflammation could be driving the cycle of obesity, in conjunction with the changes in gut microbes, in some cases allowing more calories to be extracted from food, though the exact trigger for the cycle is unknown. His group has already started comparing human genes and microbial profiles of healthy people, versus those with metabolic syndrome to see if they can achieve the same results as with the mouse study.
It Comes Down to Your Gut... Microbes
Mar 09, 2010