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Sequencing Study Uncovers Mechanistic Details of Environmental Enteropathy

By sequencing intestinal samples from individuals with environmental enteropathy (EE), a group led by scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Zambia have uncovered new details about the mechanisms involved in the condition. EE is a subclinical disorder of the small intestine associated with stunted growth, neurocognitive impairment, reduced oral vaccine efficacy, and increased risk of metabolic syndrome. The condition is highly prevalent in low- and middle-income nations and is known to be a byproduct of recurrent enteric infection, yet its pathophysiology remains poorly understood. To investigate, the researchers performed single-cell RNA sequencing on 33 small intestinal biopsies from 11 Zambian adults with EE, six adults from the US without EE, and two South African adults. As reported in Science Translational Medicine this week, the team identified common pathways associated with the disease- and cell-type contribution to EE severity, as well as increased proinflammatory molecules and alterations in WNT- and MAPK-associated signaling in EE patient samples. The findings, the study's authors state, reveal pathways that could potentially be targeted to treat EE.