In this week's Science, a team of Harvard University and Broad Institute scientists discusses the ways in which the metabolism of gut microbiota affects a person's metabolism, as well as its importance to human health. They note how the chemistry of gut microbial xenobiotic metabolism is often distinct from that of host enzymes and remains poorly understood. They further suggest that a better understanding of how gut microbial xenobiotic metabolism works "will guide personalized medicine and nutrition, inform toxicology risk assessment, and improve drug discovery and development."
And in Science Translational Medicine, investigators from the US and Europe describe how silencing the expression of a long, non-coding RNA in heart tissue could prevent damage from a heart attack. They focused on a lncRNA called Wisper that is highly abundant in cardiac fibroblasts, and show that its inhibition protected heart function and decreased scarring after myocardial infarction in mice. The team determined Wisper is involved pro-scarring pathways in cardiac fibroblasts and, importantly, identified a similar lncRNA in humans. They also discovered that levels of this human lncRNA correlated fibrosis severity from aortic stenosis, but that the lncRNA's effects on scarring were limited to cardiac cells.