BioQuakes

AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Trust Your Gut and Exercise

 

File:Wild garden of the gut bacteria 5.jpg

According to an article on GEN news, the level of Microbiomes contained within the Gut is influenced by exercise as a young child. Microbiota are the organisms that share our body space, and the gut has a particularly concentrated region of these organisms. Scientists estimate that gut microbiomes make up anywhere from 1-3% of total body mass. As it turns out the saying, “trust your gut” has some scientific merit. Microbiomes promote healthy brain function and promote anti-depressant effects, as well as adding up to 5 million genes to the human genome. Having a healthy gut is a key to overall biological health.

A recent study by Colorado University claims a connection between early life exercise and healthy microbiome activity. This study was conducted with rats, with one group young of rats exercising daily contrasted against a control of rats who behaved normally. The younger exercising rats experienced a growth of probiotic bacteria in their guts, more so then the stationary rats or even older rats who exercised. Researchers “emphasize the ability of exercise” to promote a healthy brain and metabolic function. In the future, Colorado University will look for ways to promote healthy microbiome activity in adults who have a much more stagnant microbiome structure.

 

Sources:

1.http://www.genengnews.com/gen-news-highlights/gut-microbiome-influenced-by-early-life-exercise/81252160/

2.http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/microbiome/

3.http://patient.info/health/the-gut

 

Joint Pain? Blame it on the Gut.

That sharp pain we feel in our knees after jumping rope, the pains we feel in our elbows after shooting all of those foul shots, even the pain we feel in our fingers while typing AP Bio Blog Posts.  You all know this feeling of joint pain I’m talking about, and if you don’t right now, you will in 15-20 years… trust me.  Professionals aren’t entirely sure of the real causes regarding joint pain leading to rheumatoid arthritis, but an emerging body of research is focusing on a potential culprit: the bacteria that live in our gut.

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Many recent studies have found intriguing links between our gut microbes, rheumatoid arthritis, and other diseases in which the body’s immune system goes wrong and attacks its own tissue. Microbes are especially influential in the gut and as the pathway for digestion, the gastrointestinal tract must deal with a constant stream of food-related foreign microbes, which must be monitored and, if they are harmful, destroyed. To do this, our intestines have developed an extensive immune system, whose effects reach far beyond the gut. Immune cells in the gut seem to be able to activate inflammatory cells throughout the body, including in joints.  A study published in 2013 by Jose Scher, a rheumatologist at New York University, found that people with rheumatoid arthritis were much more likely to have a bug called Prevotella copri in their intestines than people that did not have the disease. In another study published in October, Scher found that patients with psoriatic arthritis, another kind of autoimmune joint disease, had significantly lower levels of other types of intestinal bacteria.

Over the past several years, scientists have collected a growing collection of evidence stating that many of these bugs may have a major effect on our well-being. Some trigger chronic, non-infectious ailments such as rheumatoid arthritis while others actually prevent against such diseases. But while many scientists are confident of the link between the microbiome and arthritis, they haven’t pinned down what particular role bacteria play in triggering the disease. Scher says Prevotella copri may stimulate an immune reaction that then targets joint tissue. Or it may crowd out beneficial microbes that keep immune-system attack cells being too aggressive.

Venna Taneja, an immunologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, who has found clear differences in the bacterial populations of mice bred to be genetically prone to rheumatoid arthritis stats “It’s become more and more clear that these microbes can affect the immune system, even in diseases that are not in the gut.”  She has found clear differences in the bacterial populations of mice bred to be genetically prone to rheumatoid arthritis. In those more susceptible to the disease, a species of bacteria from the Clostridium family dominates. In mice without arthritis, other strains flourish, and the Clostridium strains are scarce.

As the years ago on, the study of joint pain and arthritis in correlation with the Gut Microbes will grow and one day these many scientists will figure out a way to work out the negatives of this bacteria and use it solely to a person’s benefit.

Original Article

Additional Sources and Reading:

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-17066/could-your-gut-be-the-cause-of-your-joint-pain.html

Overload of Calories

You may not realize this, but we lose a significant amount of calories while we are asleep. Now imagine if the calories we burned while resting or sleeping did not get burned. If those calories did not burn while we were asleep it could cause us to become obese much more easily. The process of our metabolism rates getting slower does not occur until later on in most people’s lives. Unfortunately, those who have to take antipsychotic drugs may approach this problem sooner than expected.

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Image Link

New research has been found by the University of Iowa Health care that an antipsychotic drug, risperidone, effects people’s metabolism rates. The reason why is due to the gut microbiome going through an alteration through it’s bacterial anatomy. Kirby Carlarge, University of Iowa pediatrician,  and Justin Grobe, University of Iowa professor in pharmacology, worked together to test mice on risperidone. After two months the mice on risperidone gained an extra 2.5 grams compared to the control group of mice. Carlarge and Grobe used the total calorimetry machine to understand whether aerobic-resting states or non-aerobic resting states in terms of metabolism have been affected. The total calorimetry machine is able to give the exact measurement of the total energy change by inputting exact amounts of oxygen into the mice, outputting exact amounts of carbon dioxide, and the reaction of heat production. The results were the aerobic-resting metabolic rate to remain the same, but the anaerobic-resting metabolic rate had decreased . Therefore, the shift in the mice’s microbiomes does not affect the aerobic-resting metabolic rate, but instead affects the anaerobic-resting metabolic rate.

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Image Link

Risperidone draws a connection to weight gain due to the alteration in the bacterial anatomy of the microbiome. However, despite this understanding of risperidone there are no definite ways of preventing this situation occurring. Therefore, it is very likely for patients undergoing this treatment to become obese. Do you think there are other variables that could change and prevent risperidone creating this effect?

We Eat What We Are: The Importance of Microbes in Our Gut

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Photo of microbes (licensing information here)

Ever since the discovery of the microbes, scientists have become very aware of the miniature world of microbes. This early awareness was later translated to an understating of how bacteria and other microbes effect the world we live in. Of course, early scientific and medical research often focused on microbes that cause diseases and how to treat them. However scientists have become aware that each individual is in fact a biome of microbes living on our exterior and inhabiting our interior organs.  Bacteria also play an important role in digestion helping us break down certain foods, producing vitamin and allowing for efficient absorption of nutrients. Increasingly, investigators have began exploring how the micro biome in our digestive track impacts our health and wellbeing.

Gut bacteria appear to play a role in matters of obesity, the development of certain types of cancer and ulcers. They do so by producing certain chemicals that affect a variety of health outcomes. Gut bacteria also produce a wide variety of neurology related chemicals that affect mental processes such as depression and anxiety disorders. Some studies now point to a relationship between autism and particular levels of gut bacteria.

The recognition of the importance of gut bacteria in health and disease have implications in a number of areas. First of all it suggests that a healthy diet should involve the encouragement of the development of good gut bacteria. It also suggests that gut bacteria diversity is a positive goal. Lastly, the results of many of these studies of the significance of gut bacteria in regard to disease point to the need to incorporate the study of an individuals gut bacteria as part of the treatment regiment to fight particular illnesses

 

 

My Gut is Telling Me To Exercise

Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder have recently discovered that early life exercise can improve the activity of the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome is the next big thing in scientific research as scientists discover its affect on both general health and disease progression.

“Our gut microbiota contains tens of trillions of microorganisms, including at least 1000 different species of known bacteria with more than 3 million genes”. Microbiota, found in the intestine, help with a range of bodily functions such as digesting foods that the stomach is unable to, producing vitamins, and helping the immune system.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Escherichia_coli#/media/File:EscherichiaColi_NIAID.jpg

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Escherichia_coli#/media/File:EscherichiaColi_NIAID.jpg

‘Exercise affects many aspects of health, both metabolic and mental, and people are only now starting to look at the plasticity of these gut microbes,”. Bacteria reside in infants’ intestinal tracts after birth to assist digestion and immune development. Exercise increases the effectiveness of these bacteria, and a  healthy gut biome promotes better brain function and causes antidepressant effects.

Scientists studied exercise and its effects on the gut microbiome using juvenile rats and proved this theory. The rats that exercised during their early lives developed a better microbial structure. The adult rats that exercised could not catch up to the rats that exercised as juveniles.

Do you think that this is an obvious or an unexpected idea, that early life exercise strengthens the gut microbiome? Does metabolic health usually coincide with mental health? Why would the gut microbiome be related to gene-making?

Other Sources

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26647967

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/290747.php 

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-guts-microbiome-changes-diet/

 

 

Sorry I’m So Lazy, Blame It On My Pre-Motor Cortex.

Scientists at the University of Oxford revealed in MRI scans of forty people that people of different levels of motivation show different brain responses to motion. Before people act, the pre-motor cortex activates prior to the parts of the brain which control movement. The brain’s of lazy people proved to light up more than the brains of industrious people.

Scientists believe that the brain connections between decisions and action are less effective in the lazy. Consequently, it requires more effort for this people to take actions. This leads scientists to believe that laziness is biology rather than concerning attitude.

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http://www.livescience.com/52807-laziness-found-in-brain.html

Scientists at the University of Oxford caution that this finding most likely does not explain all conditions of laziness, but state that, by giving us more information about the brain processes underlying normal motivation, it helps us understand better how we might find a treatment for those pathological conditions of extreme apathy” (Robert Roy Britt, Laziness: Blame it on the Brain).

A previous study in 2012 suggests that laziness is related to the level and location of dopamine in the brain. “While high levels in some brain regions were associated with high work ethic, a spike in seemed to indicate just the opposite–a person more likely to slack off” (Jennifer Welsh, Slacker or Go-Getter? Brain Chemical May Tell).  Similar to the recent study in 2015, this study in 2012 suggests a similar point: laziness is most attributable to biology.

So readers, what do you think? Do you think there are some people who are just lazy no matter how much effort they put in? Should lazy people be taking antidepressants, which increase the level of dopamine?

For addition information…

http://brainhealthbook.com/laziness-lack-motivation-can-brain-disorder/

http://www.psmag.com/business-economics/your-brain-is-making-you-lazy-42103

http://gizmodo.com/science-finally-explains-why-some-people-just-dont-care-1742654672

Iceman had a lot of problems: Murdered and had a tummy bug

Oetzi_the_Iceman_Rekonstruktion_1 (Recreated model of Iceman)

Photo by Thilo Parg

Iceman reveals a frightening and revolutionary phenomena that suggests that previously considered ancient bacterial strains are much more recent than we had thought.  “Otzi the Iceman” is a mummy discovered in 1991 inside a glacier in the Tyrolean Alps of Italy.  Scientists have done more tests on Iceman’s body than on any known mummy in history but they have also found out a lot about him and human life during his time through stomach, bowel, tooth, skin, and just about any part of his remaining tissue.  For starters, scientific research has theorized that he was a farmer living in Europe over 5300 years ago when he was murdered and left for dead in the freezing Alps.  But Iceman never ceases to provide new scientific insight into human migration and behavior thousands of years ago as scientists have recently discovered an ancient strain of Helicobacter Pyori, a common strain of the stomach bug which is known to cause painful ulcers in the stomach, in Iceman’s gut tissue.

Hp (Helicobacter Pyori) is one of the most common bacterial genomes in existence today as it is found in different strains all over the world and “causes ulcers, cancer, and gastritis—the inflammation of the lining of the stomach—in about 10% of people,” says Ann Gibbons.  Scientists have separated the three main origins of the genome to three continents: Africa, Asia, and Europe, each with their own distinct strains of Hp.  The modern hpEurope strain is theorized to have shared “elements of DNA with types of H. pylori from both Africa and Asia” says Gibbons.  This would suggest an ancient collision of the two strains in one human being who than spread it to more and more people who then migrated to Europe.

Until recently, no one could test this theory.  Months ago, imaging conducted on Iceman’s stomach and gut suggested that his gut tissue and stomach contents were quite well preserved so scientists jumped right to testing them through multiple biopsies.  They discovered two things: he had a full stomach (before he died he stuffed down a bunch of ibex meat) and that he inhabited an strain of hp traced to India and South Asia.  This tells us that “The ancestors of early European farmers such as Ötzi must have carried H. pylori with DNA from Asian strains perhaps in the Middle East before they migrated to Europe. Then, new immigrants carrying African microbes arrived in Europe much later, after Ötzi lived. The two types of microbes mixed in these migrants,creating today’s European strain much more recently than expected” according to Gibbons.

All this data goes to show is that the formation of the “modern” form of hpEurope looks like it had been formed by a just a few unlucky individuals “who were coinfected with two strains, producing a particularly adaptive hybrid type that spread rapidly in Europe,” Gibbons indicates.  This shows scientists that bacterial genomes can adapt to human activity and migration much faster than we thought they could and thanks to the wonders of Iceman’s health problems, we can now trace more deeply the behavior of ancient vs. modern bacterial genomes.

Original Article

 

Possible Connections between the Gut Microbiome and the Brain

It is not a new concept that gut bacteria affects a person’s health. But this article published in The Atlantic explains how they may even affect the human brain. Some researchers believe that the microbiome may play a role in regulating how people think and feel. Scientists have found evidence that this community of bacteria (trillions of cells that together weigh between one and three pounds) could play a crucial role in autism, anxiety, depression, and other disorders.

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 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fecal_bacteriotherapy#/media/File:E_coli_at_10000x,_original.jpg

Much of the most intriguing work has been done on autism. For years, it has been noted that about 75 percent of people with autism also have some gastrointestinal abnormality, like digestive issues or food allergies. This has prompted scientists to search for potential connections between the gut microbiome and autism; recent studies find that autistic people’s microbiome differs significantly from those of control groups. Caltech microbiologist Sarkis Mazmanian specifically focuses on a species called Bacteroides fragilis, which is seen in smaller quantities in some children with autism.  Mazmanian and several colleagues fed B. fragilis from humans to mice with symptoms similar to autism. The treatment altered the makeup of the animals’ microbiome, and more importantly, improved their behavior: They became less anxious and communicated more with other mice.

Perhaps the most well-known human study was done by Emeran Mayer, a gastroenterologist at UCLA. He recruited 25 subjects (all healthy women) for four weeks. He had 12 of them eat a cup of commercially available yogurt twice a day, while the rest didn’t. Yogurt is a probiotic, meaning it contains live bacteria. In this case it contained four species: bifidobacterium, streptococcus, lactococcus, and lactobacillus. Before and after the study, subjects were given brain scans to gauge their response to a series of images of facial expressions—happiness, sadness, anger, and so on.

To Mayer’s surprise, the results showed significant differences between the two groups. The yogurt eaters reacted more calmly to the images than the control group. “The contrast was clear,” says Mayer. “This was not what we expected, that eating a yogurt twice a day for a few weeks would do something to your brain.” He thinks the bacteria in the yogurt changed the makeup of the subjects’ gut microbes, and that this led to the production of compounds that modified brain chemistry.

As scientists learn more about how the gut-brain microbial network operates, they think it could be manipulated to treat psychiatric disorders. And because these microbes have eons of experience modifying our brains, they are likely to be more precise and subtle than current pharmacological approaches, which could mean fewer side effects. “I think these microbes will have a real effect on how we treat these disorders,” neuroscientist John Cryan says. “This is a whole new way to modulate brain function.”

Love and happiness really do come from the bottom of your… gut?

Serotonin is the famous neurotransmitter oft attributed to causing joyous type emotions.  Unlike most neurotransmitters, which are produced predominately in the brain and nervous system, a recent study mentioned in a review article estimate that, “90 percent of the body’s serotonin is made in the digestive tract. […] [C]ertain bacteria in the gut are important for the production of peripheral serotonin.”

uBiome - Microbiome Sequencing Gut Bacteria Sample Kit

 

Interesting play on words of the “Microbiome.” The gut microbiome comprises most of our body but very little of our mass… It outnumbers our cells 10 to 1! [Source]

 

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) sought to identify a link between the gut microbiome and the production of the serotonin neurotransmitter. Peripherally made serotonin is already understood as a product of the digestive tract, however, is there a link between the myriad of bacteria that compose our gut microbiomes and the neurotransmitter? What they found, was surprising; notwithstanding the known communicative link between the nervous system and the microbiome, the researchers found that the microbiome is not directly responsible for most of the production of the neurotransmitter.  The bacteria interact and stimulate the production of serotonin by the intestinal cells.

 

To arrive at this conclusion, the researchers studied the effects of “germ-free” mice.  They found that the mice that exhibited a dearth of flora within. Experimental results indicated that the mice produced around 60% less serotonin than mice with normal gut microbiomes.  The experiments also demonstrated an interesting result that may lead to future studies on the serotonin deficiency treatments–the researchers found that when augmenting the gut microbiomes with bacteria responsible with serotonin production stimulation, the levels of the neurotransmitter increased. Of course, the subject is vastly complicated, and will therefore require extensive research to more fully understand.

Original Article

Study from Article

Serotonin Wikipedia Page

Image Source

New Discoveries Link Stomach Bacteria with Autism

Autism rates are on the rise in the US, and the cause of this condition is still unknown.  Autism is mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts.  According to the CDC, 1 in 68 children will be born with autism.  This is a huge increase from the 1 in 150 children in 2000.  It is unknown how autism starts, but something causes a change in brain structure or function that leads to the condition.  New research shows that it could possibly be related to the human gut microbiome.

Mycobacterium tuberculosis Bacteria, the Cause of TB

Image Source

Since the 1990’s, the gut microbiome has been the topic of copious amounts of research.  Scientific developments since then have uncovered the influence that the gut microbiome has on human health.  Disorders in the microbiome have been linked to conditions like asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and even some cancers.  New research claims that over representation of Clostridium or Desulfovibrio bacteria in the microbiome could possibly cause the autism spectrum disorders.  According to the report, “Studies of fecal DNA extracts have found Clostridium or Desulfovibrio clusters over-represented in children with gastrointestinal complaints and ASD(autism spectrum disorders) as compared to children with similar GI complaints but typical neuro-behavioral development”.  A another possible link between the microbiome and autism was found when clinical improvement was reported in children with autism who developed fever, received antibiotics, or ingested probiotics— treatments that likely altered gut bacteria, thus limiting the effects of the bacteria. 

While the connections may be weak right now, discovering potential connections between autism and the gut microbiome allows for more research and a potential cure one day.  One researcher plans on conducting a clinical study using fecal transplants from healthy donors. The goal of this study is to see if the treatment “would reduce autism symptoms by normalizing an individual’s community of gut bacteria.”

Original Article

Further Reading:

https://www.autismspeaks.org/science/science-news/autism-study-more-evidence-linking-altered-gut-bacteria-asd

 

You Are What You Eat

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Original Link To Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pnnl/8146322408

It has been known for some time by scientists that variations in food intake lead to various different gut floras.  However, that theory had only been tested on mice…Until now.  Lawrence David, assistant professor at the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy, led an experiment that resulted in the discovery that different foods not only lead to different bacteria, but the bacteria themselves experience gene variations.  Although the discovery itself is truly amazing, the celerity at which the changes occur is the most impressive.  University of Chicago’s professor of medicine Eugene Chang specializes in gastroenterology originally thought the changes would take months or even years but the study showed that the changes started to take place within a couple of hours.  There were also changes in the amount of bile acid secreted into the stomach and that microorganisms native to cheeses and cured meats were stronger against this.  The real question is “Why is this relevant?”  To Chang, the first is evolutionary.  Ancient humans who experienced rapid dietary changes could successfully switch from nuts and berries to meat with little gastric distress and maximum absorption of nutrients from even the most unrecognizable foods.  The second is the effects of diet on certain diseases.  Chang, who has been leading a research team to discover the connection between  B. wadsworthia and colitis in mice is yet to apply these tendencies to humans.  However, he believes there could be a connection.  His experiments show just how sensitive the body is to dietary change.  Dramatic changes in ones diet could lead to a brief exposure to harmful diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease.  The experiments are difficult to conduct however because according to David, it’s hard to find even 10 people willing to dramatically change their diets for science.

original article: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-guts-microbiome-changes-diet/

similar article on the gut micro biome: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/290747.php

Using Poop to Save the People

     Bi YO! What’s going on readers? Today I will discuss the recent phenomenon of gut microbiome transplants, and more interestingly, how recent research has allowed patients to be treated through the use of human feces.

Our microbiome, a term coined by Joshua Lederberg, is a system used “to signify the ecological community of commensal, symbiotic, and pathogenic microorganisms that literally share our body space and have been all but ignored as determinants of health and disease.” They are the bacteria insi

Microbiome Chart Explanation (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Microbiome_analysis_flowchart.png)

de of us and are vastly abundant in our body. A Clostridium Difficile infection causes diarrhea and the colon to be inflamed. However, there had not been a truly successful treatment to this issue until recently. But recently, the poop of the people has proven itself to be a powerful panacea. Ari Grinspan became performing FMT’s, fecal transplantations, in 2013, and has done so with a 92% success rate. In these procedures, feces is taking from a healthy, clean donor. It is vital that this happens. Then, they transfer the healthy sample into the colon of the unhealthy patient while the patient is undergoing a colonoscopy. Scientists are actually currently uncertain of why it works so well- one theory is that increased bacterial competition stops growth of Clostridium Difficile. Regardless, the process is groundbreaking- maybe it wasn’t waste after all.

Junk Food Encourages Disease

According to a recent discovery posted in Science News, a typical American diet, consisting of poorly nutritional foods, leaves one prone to getting sick by weakening their immune system. Interestingly enough, this issue is rooted in cells that are not your own. In your gut microbiome, there are countless varieties and numbers of bacteria, all working away at the food that passes through your gut. Now, these bacteria are actually quite manipulative, and besides from feeding off of the food that you eat, teach your immune system what to attack, like an instructor or tutor for your immune system, albeit a biased one. These bacteria have colonized your body. They’re not just going to let some pathogen get in the way of their free meal ticket.

(What it looks like in there)

What happens when you eat certain foods, like junk foods, is that your gut microbiome changes. Different bacteria thrive on the fatty or sugary foods while other bacteria that survive off of more complex starches and carbs fade away, changing the demographic of your gut microbiome. This limited variety also limits the amount of invaders your immune system knows as hostile, or understands how to deal with, and therefore, you are more susceptible to disease, or medical complications.

(Actual photo of a biofilm found in the gut)

This was proven by taking samples from fit and obese humans and inserting them in otherwise sterile mice. Their resulting microbiomes grew, and the mice with the obese implant suffered more medical problems than the mice with the fit implant. This is because there were not enough “trainer” bacteria in the first mice’s gut to help train it to fend off disease, and thus it got sick more easily. So don’t go blaming your immune system the next time you get sick. It may be your fault for avoiding real, nutritional food (not just salad), and not taking care of it.

The moral of the story is to eat your vegetables and serve the bacterial overlords that have taken host in your body.

They’re good for you.

Trust me.

 

It’s Time to Re-program the Human Gut

(Photo of the human gut (licensing information here)

“What kind of water would you like? Tap or bottled?” “Bottled, please.”

It is known that when traveling internationally, it is typically unsafe to drink tap water. This is due to the lack of familiarity with the filtering systems used by other countries. This caution extends to certain foods as well. However, Dr. Pamela Silver, Dr. Jeffrey Way, and Dr. Donald Ingber, investigators at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, may have found a solution to many acute gastrointestinal illnesses, such as this one, that affect the human gut microbiome.

Their goal is to create a bacteria that can detect and fight microbial invaders. This genetically engineered bacteria will specialize in detecting the chemicals given off by gastrointestinal inflammation. After the bacteria makes the detection, it will begin to attack all microbial invaders and restore normality within the gastrointestinal tract. The bacteria will be created in a probiotic pill form. In order to make sure that this probiotic pill does not have a negative impact on the environment after it exits the gastrointestinal tract, Silver and Way will ensure that it will not work unless it is in a specific environment and is triggered by specific chemical signals, both specific to the environment and signals found in the gastrointestinal tract.

Silver, Way, and Ingber will use the gut-on-a-chip technology to test this probiotic pill. The gut-on-a-chip technology will allow them to mimic gastrointestinal inflammation with living human cells. The team plans to study the response of invaders and pathogens, that are causing the inflammation, to the genetically engineered bacteria.

This research will allow for the treatment of a multitude of gastrointestinal illnesses, as well as the introduction to treating other diseases that negatively impact the human gut microbiome. I would love not having to worry about what I drink or eat on vacation! I am excited to see where this newly found research takes the discussion and the treatment of illnesses related to the human gut micobiome.

Source: Biology News

Have No Fear, Gut Microbes Are Here!

Ever dream about being a real life Captain America? Well, with the help of microbes, we are one step closer to achieving a “super soldier.” Microbes might not make a soldier muscular, but they can help with soldiers’ health and versatility. Scientist Jeff Tabor is working on engineering a probiotic organism that can help humans easily fight diseases, prevent obesity, and change their body’s ability to adapt to certain environments.

The gut bacteria affects many functions of the human body. The digestive system, immune system, and nervous system are all influenced by gut bacteria. Disrupting these microorganisms can cause indigestion, a weak immune system, depression, insomnia, and affect other cognitive abilities. Tabor’s goal is simply to create a microbe that can be consumed to prevent these problems.

Gut Microbe

Gut Microbe

Initially, Tabor wanted to use these microbes to target obesity because scientists have abundant knowledge of obesity at the molecular level. He recently succeeded in genetically modifying E.Coli to detect chemicals in the body that carry disease in mice guts. He hopes to use this modified E.Coli to sense chemicals in the gut that are connected to obesity and then use other molecules to prevent this obesity. The creation of a microbe that can control weight can be extremely helpful for the U.S. armed forces. For example, soldiers going from sea level to the top of a mountain way above sea level experience changes in temperature and pressure. Using this engineered gut microbe, the soldiers can put on weight to help them keep warm on top of the mountain and then lose weight to keep cool at sea level.

Another military benefit that these microbes can provide is to help soldiers operate effectively on little to no sleep or to help soldiers adapt to changes in their circadian rhythms, either from time change or going below sea level in a submarine. Scientists are interested in experimenting with the gut microbe to be able to achieve these goals in the future.

Some people might be afraid of the possible affects that these genetically modified bacteria might have on the human body. However, Tabor’s goal is for the bacteria to stay in the gut for about six hours to do its job and then self-destruct or die naturally to prevent the bacteria for staying in the body too long. There are other concerning issues about creating a microbe that can help prevent obesity. The creation would take away any incentive for humans to eat healthy and focus on their diets because they could just use the microbe to prevent gaining weight. Any new scientific experiment comes with its pros and cons, but using gut microbes for human health, especially for the military, can be a big step in the right direction.

Source Article

What a Smelly Solution to a Smelly Predicament!!!!

The newest developments in scientific and medical research have been focused around a rather smelly purpose.

Fecal transplants are all the rage… and yes, it is what is sounds like. A fecal transplant occurs when the feces of a healthy donor are surgically transplanted into the colon of an individual who has various imbalances in the bacterial assortment of their gut. The feces with a healthy bacteria levels pass through the colon of the sick individual, replacing their “bad bacteria” with “good bacteria”, restoring the bacterial balances back to the way they should be.

Poop

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Poop.jpeg

You may ask yourself, why can’t you just take some antibiotics to kill the dominating bacteria and even things out?

Well the problem is just that. Bacterial imbalances are usually caused by antibiotic use that kill one type of bacteria and not another, so taking more antibiotics on top of that would just add to the problem.

The transplant of fecal matter is an icky procedure but has shown to cure many more ailments other than JUST bacterial imbalances. Fecal transplants have showed to help various metabolic diseases, neuropsychiatric disorders, autoimmune diseases, allergic disorders, and even tumors.

E coli Ag Res Mag

E. Coli. – one of the most common bacterias in not only your colon, but also your whole body, is a key player in the Fecal Microbiota Transplantation

One specific study of Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT) in metabolic syndromes, mixed microbiota from the feces of a lean donor with a sample of unhealthy, self-collected feces. After the mixed feces were then reinserted into the gut, the resultant excrement of the patient displayed increased insulin sensitivity and increased number of healthy butyrate-producing intestinal bacteria. In a sense, the resultant doo doo showed signs of improved health for the patient. Another report of FMT displayed favorable outcomes in abating the effects of:

  • Parkinson’s disease - a progressive disorder of the nervous system that negatively affects movement
  • Multiple Sclerosis – an autoimmune nervous system disease in which the human immune system attacks the central nervous system
  • Myoclonus Dystonia – a nervous and musculoskeletal disorder that results in involuntary and spontaneous muscle twitching and jerking
  • Chronic fatigue Syndrome – a cerebral disorder in which the brain excretes neurotransmitters that transmit the information to feel tired and fatigued. Can be extremely dangerous when mixed with everyday activities such as cooking and driving.
  • Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura – a vascular disorder that results in excessive bleeding, internal hemorrhaging, and bruising from low levels of blood platelets.

While many think that poop is simply waste that ought to be disposed of immediately, the beneficial effects that Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT) have spread all over the body. From regulating the bacterial levels in the colon, to helping alleviate the symptoms of various autoimmune, vascular, muscular, nervous, and skeletal diseases.

Who would’ve thought that putting poop BACK into the colon would be a healthy thing to do!?!?!

Original Article: http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2015/06/22/fmt-film/

Funny, yet extremely informative, animation and additional article: http://www.openbiome.org/about-fmt/

 

Bringing the Human Gut Microbiome into the Light

The human gut microbiome is an incredible system of symbiotic organisms. These micro-organisms that provide us with vitamins and amino acids as well as break down toxins and protect us from harmful invaders. We could not live without them and they could not survive without their host, us. We carry over 3 pounds of these little helpers in our body and outnumber our cells. Although this system is so important to our survival, it has been hard to study for long periods of time, until now. Judah Folkman, professor of Vascular Biology at Harvard Medical School states, “”Until now, use of traditional culture methods and even more sophisticated organoid cultures have prevented the microbiome from being studied beyond one or two days. With our human gut-on-a-chip, we can not only culture the normal gut microbiome for extended times.”

 Escherichia coli

E. Coli 10000x magnified

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fecal_bacteriotherapy

The human gut-on-a-chip is constructed from a clear, flexible polymer roughly the size of the a flash drive. This chip simulates the environment of our gut so well that cultures can last up to weeks. This extended period of time can allow for major breakthroughs in the study of the microbiome and what happens when things do not go as planned. Judah Folkman adds, “we can also analyze contributions of pathogens, immune cells, and vascular and lymphatic endothelium, as well as model specific diseases to understand complex pathophysiological responses of the intestinal tract.”

 

The Wyss team thinks that this new technology can help treat patients by eventually culturing there own cells and microbiome on the human gut-on-a-chip to test different treatments. This new technology, although not directly discovering anything about the human gut microbiome, will lead to major discoveries down the line.

 

Main Article:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151214165918.htm

 

Other Articles:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140707103641.htm

http://www.britannica.com/science/human-microbiome

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Microbiome_Project

Infants’ Feces Says a Lot about the Gut Microbiome

Who knew studying babies’ poop can actually lead to amazing discoveries about childbirth, breastfeeding, antibiotics, allergies, and asthma?

That’s exactly what scientists Fredrik Bäckhed and Jovanna Dahlgren at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, and Wang Jun at the Beijing Genomics Institute-Shenzhen, China recently learned when they conducted a study analyzing feces from 98 Swedish infants.

But before we get into the details of the study, let’s get down the basics first. What exactly is the gut microbiome?

Gut microbiome is the name given to the population of microbiota organisms that live in the human intestine. These microorganisms are unique, not only because there are trillions of them but also because they have milliions of genes, and can function as a person’s identity card (much like a fingerprint or a strand of hair).

Screen Shot 2016-01-08 at 10.45.15 PM

(Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fecal_bacteriotherapy#/media/File:E_coli_at_10000x,_original.jpg)

Recently there’s been a lot of buzz in the science world about the gut microbiome because it seems as though it plays various crucial functions, and this study is just one of many. The Swedish and Chinese scientists discovered a few ways in how the gut microbiome affects childbirth, breastfeeding, and development.

There are two ways to give birth: vaginally or via a cesarean section, or C-section. Comparing the feces collected from babies born vaginally and from babies born via C-section, scientists discovered that the feces from the latter contains a significantly less similar microbiome to the microbiome of their mothers.

They also determined that nutrition during the early stages of an infant’s life is a core factor in the development of the gut microbiome.

Our findings surprisingly demonstrated that cessation of breastfeeding, rather than introduction of solid foods, is the major driver in the development of an adult-like microbiota

-Fredrik Bäckhed, lead study author

Bacteria rely on the mother’s milk to grow. Once the bacteria’s access to that milk stops, the bacteria stops growing. In its place, adult-like microorganisms emerge.

In addition, the gut microbiome acts as nutrients and vitamins to the infant’s growth and development, and gives aid to important processes such as making amino acids.

The study also critiques the amount of antibiotics given to babies when they’re born. There’s speculation that the baby’s gut microbiome is negatively impacted by the overabundance and overexposure of antibiotics. Besides the obvious risk of antibiotic resistance, one hypothesis is that when exposed to antibiotics early on, the gut microbiome loses important bacteria that helps immune cells mature. This is believed to be the reason why allergies and asthma are now widely prevalent.

Though this study is just a preliminary, it’s amazing just how big of an effect the gut microbiome has on us, and how much new research is coming out.

Want to learn more about the gut microbiome? Check out other sources about the microbiome, such as it’s relationship on the brain, and how it can change the brain’s function, how it can help reduce weight, and junk food’s negative impact on it, and make sure to comment below!

 

 

Original Article

Dysbiosis: Does Imbalance Help?

The gut microbiome is a very large collection of mutualistic relationships between microorganisms and an animal. In our case, these microorganisms control very much of the digestive tract and have influences throughout the body. Crohn’s disease is something that can happen due to imbalance in this microbiome or “dysbiosis“. Usually marked by inflammation in the digestive tract, this disease is a result of an autoimmune response against possibly microbial antigens. Although there is no cure, scientists have determined the best course of action is to relieve the symptoms. This results in disruptions to the gut microbiome.

Inflammation of the colon due to Crohn’s disease

Scientists studying responses in the gut microbiome have found that treatment for Crohn’s disease have caused various responses in the people in the experiment. Antibiotics have been found to decrease bacterial growth in the tract while allowing fungus to grow more freely. Formula diets relieved inflammation and other symptoms but didn’t repair bacterial balance in the microbiome. Immunosuppressants decreased inflammation and bacterial dysbiosis at the expense of increasing fungal dysbiosis. All these methods don’t seem to work out.

But what if the microbiome does not need to be restored to remain healthy? Formula diets caused more dysbiosis but were able to alleviate symptoms. Suddenly, the microbiome does not seem to be as necessary as previous studies suggest. However, this experiment only measures a few variables. Results beneficial to treatments for Crohn’s disease may cause something bad to happen elsewhere in the microbiome. Replacing the gut microbiome would definitely have massive side effects.

Perhaps one day, we could find some way to substitute parts of our mutualistic relationship with the bacteria inhabiting our gut. However, that day seems far off. For now, we should probably stick with what we have.

Original Article

Stress and your Gut Microbiota

Stress. It’s something all people deal with- whether in large or small amounts- we all know what it feels like. Stress doesn’t always mean staying up to pull an all-nighter and barely making the deadline for a paper, it can be just the anxiousness of flying and getting all your things packed before a trip. In general, stress messes with our immune systems in a lot of different ways. There’s a lot of research on the different ways that stress can affect our bodies ranging from our brains to our hearts. New research has shown another way that stress affects our immune systems: through our gut microbiota. What is our gut microbiota? Formally called gut flora, our gut microbiota is the microbe population living in our intestine. Research has revealed that this microbe population is extremely sensitive to any change in our lifestyles, stress included.

The number one thing that affects our gut flora is our diet. Our bodies are very sensitive to what we eat and how active we are. Problems in giving our bodies proper nutrition and exercise can result in mental health problems, diabetes, obesity, or cancer. Stress, however, has been shown to have a very big impact on our gut. An article reported in Medical Daily described a study done on wild squirrels. The researchers examined squirrel microbiomes and their stress hormone levels. They found that the more stressed a squirrel was, the less variety of bacteria in their gut. They concluded that a healthier squirrel would have more diverse gut bacteria. They assume the same is true for humans, but will have to test to verify. On a side note, they also conducted a test where they found that pregnant women under stress were found to transfer negative effects of stress to their children through vaginal microbiota.

220px-Eastern_Grey_Squirrel

Here is a possibly stressed squirrel  (although he seems happy eating the nuts).

Yet another study was conducted and published through The Atlantic on gut microbiota- specifically on “traveler’s constipation.” You might be wondering why I’m mentioning this because, let’s face it- who wouldn’t want to be traveling on a flight to the Bahamas right about now? For our gut, however, this can pose a lot of stresses we wouldn’t think about. About 40% of people say they suffer from travelers constipation, so let’s find out what this is all about. Firstly, on vacation our eating habits change. Whether this means coming home for the holidays and binge eating cookies, or eating a lot less than you normally eat, your gut is sensitive to both. Another, more surprising effect is the change of scenery- your gut is extremely sensitive to change of setting. Anytime you leave your general habitat, in fact, it throws your gut flora off balance- especially if the time zone changes because it messes up routine. For some, the mere thought of traveling can cause difficulty with their bowel movements. Sitting on planes or in a car for long periods of time can also really mess with your gut because part of what helps us “go” is moving around. This is why exercise can actually help you to go to the bathroom. All of these things are things we might not really think about because we don’t understand why it happens or we might not even realize it’s happening sometimes.

Our gut is often called the “second brain”, because millions of neurons line the intestines so it really does play a role in your mental state. Diet and exercise are extremely important in maintaining a healthy gut. Doctors and researchers have have recommended sleep, a lot of water, yogurt, probiotics or other fermented foods, foods high in fiber and meditation and mindfulness. These two might be surprising, but it makes sense. If our gut really is our “second brain” we should take really good care of our mental health through meditation, being mindful, and even therapy.

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