BioQuakes

AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: #gutmicrobe

A Baby Beetle’s Nursery is.. In a Dead Mouse?!

Two Parent Burying Beetles in a Dead Rodent! Gross!

Typically, death for animals is experienced at the end of one’s life, but this is reversed for a certain species of carrion beetle, Nicrophorus vespilloides or burying beetle, in which infant beetles are born and raised within dead mice carcasses. In this mice carcass, parent beetles frequently tend to the dead animal by soaking it with their own oral and anal secretions, providing the baby beetle with a much needed dark microbial film. This bacterial goo actually closely resembles the parent beetle’s gut microbiomes, allowing for the baby beetle to truly thrive as an offspring of this beetle.

But why give these baby beetles this goo within a dead carcass? What benefit would that ever give to an insect?

In every living thing, there is sphere of personal bacteria that provide much needed life benefits as well as qualities like your own stench. Plus, bacteria can even join together through various forms of cellular communication, making an almost impenetrable microfilm biome for bacteria to live in, as seen in plaque on human teeth. This same function is what helps support infant beetles with necessary nutrients and life benefits by keeping the cadaver fresh and capable of sustaining youngster life. Plus, it even causes dead bodies to smell actually not terrible, but instead more pleasant! Crazy! “What burying beetle parents can do with a small dead animal is remarkable,” says coauthor Shantanu Shukla of the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany.  “It looks different. It smells different. It’s completely transformed by the beetles.”

If these insects aren’t exposed to these microbiomes as a child, there could be some serious detrimental effects. As shown by Shukla’s lab work, larvae grown in cadavers that were swept clean of biofilm by Shukla and her colleagues used their food less efficiently and gained less weight (“roughly third less weight per gram than those who had their parents goo”).

But, the parents are not the only ones who manipulate the carcass, which can be seen here. As parent beetles and tended to their goo in the body and guarding their children, the infant beetles also add their own secretions to the dead mouse and also eat away the bacteria as well as the entire mouse body. “What will remain is the tail of the mouse,” Shukla says, “and the skull and a few pieces of skin.”

Isn’t it simply crazy how much bacteria can contribute to the growth of a baby insect as well as its impact on even a dead animal? Comment below about what YOU think about this!

The Effects of Non-Antibiotic Medication on Human Gut Flora

This article focuses on the effect of non-antibacterial drugs on human gut flora. The study published by the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Germany tested nearly 1200 drugs, some 835 of which were designed to target human cells, to see if they had any effect on the human gut flora. The team discovered that 27% of these drugs had an effect on the gut flora.

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Example of Human Gut Flora

However, these effects are not necessarily bad. They suggest that some of these changes may be some of the positive side effects of these drugs. The researchers also found a connection between the bacteria not directly affected by the drugs and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

What are the consequences of such a discovery?

Although the results of the study did not answer the question directly, there could be a link between non-antibacterial drugs and antibacterial resistance. The study’s coauthor, Kiran Patil, says that such effects “should be looked at very seriously”.

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Ultimately the study highlights the importance of considering the drugs put into the human body and what effect they may have – positive or negative – on the human microbiome. Personally, I think that people in this day and age overuse drugs, popping anti-inflammatories and headache pills like they are candy. This has only decreased our sensitivity to these drugs and caused a need for stronger and stronger drugs. We often don’t consider what these powerful drugs are doing to our delicate and complex microbiomes.

What do you think of the results of this study? Is it something to be worried about or just trumped up malarkey?

Is Gut Bacteria the Future of Cancer Treatment?

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Your gut has millions of bacteria in it, but not all bacteria make you sick. The millions of bacteria in your gut are called a microbiota and they help keep you healthy. Just like a fingerprint everyone’s gut microbiota is unique with trillions of bacteria in your gut and over 1,000 different species.The factors that make your gut microbiota different are your age, diet, environment, genetics and medication. The differences in one’s gut microbiota might have a greater significance than originally thought.

Scientists believe that the differences in the gut microbiota are the reason certain cancer patients don’t respond to the new cancer treatments. The new cancer treatment that scientist studied, in relation to the gut microbiota, is immunotherapy, particularly checkpoint inhibition. Immunotherapy aims to rapidly shrink or disappear advanced tumors. While doing this study, Scientists found that certain bacteria, “good” bacteria in the gut, are linked to a patient responding well to the treatment and “bad” bacteria is linked to the unresponsiveness of the immunotherapy.

So what makes a bacteria good or bad ? In this study, the “good” bacteria helps immune cells recognize tumor cells. The “bad“ bacteria interfere with the immune cells functions.

One of the studies to find the “good” and “bad’ bacteria were done on melanoma patients. Scientist had a sample size of 42 patients and took a stool sample prior to giving them the immunotherapy treatment. They found ten types of bacteria in common between the people but each person had a different ratio of those bacterias. Out of those ten they found that eight of the different types of bacteria were more abundantly in people that responded to the treatment (classified as “good” bacteria) and two types of bacteria were more abundant in the people that didn’t respond to the treatment (“bad” bacteria).

In another study done, cancer patients that took an antibiotic after having done the immunotherapy don’t live as long as the cancer patients that didn’t take the antibiotics. As shown bacteria can also be good and even help fight illnesses in our bodies. But the antibiotics that are  being overprescribed are causing issues in our bodies because antibiotics kill harmful bacteria but they also kill the good bacteria.

We Didn’t Start the Fire…Gut Microbes Did.

Many scientists have hypothesized that infants’ gut microbiota could influence the development of their immune system. Recently, a test led by Drs. Christine C. Johnson at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit and Susan Lynch at the University of California, San Francisco, but this theory to test. Specifically, they set out to examine the relationship between an infant’s gut microbiota and their relative risk of atopy and asthma. The researchers inspected the composition of gut microbes in stool samples from almost 300 infants—all part of a diverse study group born in and around Detroit between 2003 and 2007—by means of examining sequence variation within ribosomal RNA. Ultimately, the team found that the infants could be divided into 3 separate groups, each with distinct bacterial and fungal gut microbiota.

When blood samples obtained from the infants at 2 years of age were tested for sensitivity to allergens, the 3 microbiota groups had significantly different risks for allergen sensitivity. The “high-risk” microbiota group had a relatively lower abundance of certain bacteria and a higher level of some fungi, and was more likely to be diagnosed with asthma at 4 years of age. This seeming link between gut microbiota and allergy and asthma was also manifested when other factors associated with allergic disease—such as breastfeeding—were controlled. Moreover, the researchers found that the high-risk group had a distinct set of metabolites that lacked anti-inflammatory fatty acids and breast milk-derived oligosaccharides that were found in children in the low-risk microbiota group, increasing vulnerability to inflammation.

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Neonatal gut microbiota play a huge role in health and disease (Credit: Eric Atkins)

The researchers also mixed immune cells from healthy adult donors in solutions containing metabolites extracted from the infant’s stool samples. The high-risk group’s metabolite samples increased the amount of allergy-promoting immune cells interleukin-4, a cell-signaling protein associated with allergies, and also reduced T-regulatory cells, an essential group of immune cells that suppress allergic responses. This reduction in T-regulatory cells was also spurred by a lipid that the team identified, called 12,13-DiHOME, that was found at high levels in the high-risk group. Discussing this finding, Lynch expressed to The Scientist, “That for me is incredibly exciting as it suggests that microbial-associated metabolites in the neonatal gut may represent an important driver of early-life immune cell phenotypes associated with disease development in childhood.”

The team plans to conduct a similar study that will focus on environmental factors and how they may affect the development of the gut microbiota. According to Lynch, “Understanding the basis of human-microbial development may prove critical to unraveling the basis of allergy and asthma and to developing preventative therapeutic strategies.”

Could Hygiene Be Making Us Sick?

In today’s world, people are more cautious than ever about cleanliness and hygiene. One would be hard- pressed to walk into an elementary school where hand sanitizer lined the halls and a plethora of foods weren’t avoided. It seems as if the parenting goal of the 21st century is to sterilize every surface that their child tries to touch. But could this shelter of cleanliness actually be making these children more susceptible to illness?

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The National Microbiome Initiative has reason to believe so. Via attentive study of the diversity of bacteria that call the human body home, scientists have determined that sterilizing the world of a young child may inhibit the development of his or her microbiome and consequent immune abilities. Scientists have determined that proper exposure to “dirt” plays a vital part in “training” the immune response to bodily intruders. Although a human’s bacterial microbiome is mostly formed within the first 100 days of life, continued exposure to foreign substances is vital for its proper development. Whether it be a strain of bacteria, a peanut, or a certain animal, when children aren’t exposed to the full range of microbes that the world has to offer they develop with a lower capability to manage them.

Since this generation of children are growing up in an increasingly sterile world, it is intuitive that the prevalence of allergies has skyrocketed. In a 2016 study at the University of California San Francisco, researchers found that one- month old children who lacked particular gut microbes were three times as likely to develop an allergy by age two. Their immune response is not properly trained to distinguish between what belongs in the human body and what is an intruder, and thus is more likely to mistake something as banine as a peanut or gluten for an intruder.

Although pediatric hygiene is important, maybe it’s time for parents to stop putting a Clorox wipe to every surface their children touch. Who knows? A tumble in the playground dirt may help develop a toddler’s microbiome and not just scuff up their jeans.

C. Difficile Colitis: How To Prevent It

What is Clostridioides difficile Colitis, or C. difficile Colitis, and how can you get it? C. difficile Colitis is an infection of the Colon caused by an excess amount of the Clostridioides difficile bacterium in your intestines. Some symptoms of the infection include diarrhea, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, and blood in stool. C. difficile Colitis is spread by feces, it usually comes from touching a contaminated surface, then touching your mouth. As repulsive as it sounds, it’s actually a lot more common than you might think. Statistics reported by the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that in 2015, more than 148 out of every 1,000 people contracted C. Difficile Colitis.

Clostridium Difficile Bacteria

 

Experiment:

Confused and concerned by these findings, Kashyap, a Gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, alongside her team, decided to conduct an experiment on mice to get to the bottom of this infection. It is known that a disturbance in the combination of gut microbes within a mouse, can, in many cases, cause a C. Difficile infection inside of them. That being said, the researchers, at random, extracted and transported fecal matter from people’s colons with either normal or disturbed microbiomes, and transplanted the gut microbes into the mice’s stomachs.

Results of the experiment, as they predicted, showed that the mice that received transplants from people with disturbed microbiomes were not able to fight off the C. Difficile infection as well as the mice who received transplants from people with normal microbiomes, could. The results showed that, anteceding the experiment, the mice who had received the transplant of disturbed gut microbiomes, experienced an increase in a few specific amino acids found in their gut, especially proline. Proline is a major food source of C. Difficile bacteria, which in turn, strengthens the bacteria, giving it an advantage over other microbes found in the gut, that do not consume proline. This proved that proline-deficient people have much less C. Difficile bacteria in their intestines, thus making them far less susceptible to contracting the infection.

All that being said, the best way to prevent C. Difficile Colitis, is to avoid any and all antibiotics containing proline and to consider taking probiotics with proline-eating bacteria in order to hopefully outrun and weaken C. Difficile bacteria within the intestines, helping to restore the balance of microbes. Please don’t hesitate to comment what you think!

New Reason to Watch Your “Diet”: The Human Gut Microbiome and Competition

The human body consists of approximately 100 trillion microbes, and in the digestive tract of the human gut alone it is estimated that there are trillions of microbes. Recent studies done by Athena Aktipis, a researcher at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, have shown that people’s dietary choices either help to increase the cooperation between gut microbes and their human hosts, or they could potentially lead to conflict between the two.

The microbiota consists of bacteria, and the human microbiota contains about 500 different species of microbes. There is a possibility that the composition of these microbes could affect behavior, susceptibility to allergies, and even likelihood for obesity. According to several previous studies, exposure to intestinal bacteria prevents allergies in infants and young children. This has been determined by examining the noticeable difference between the compositions of intestinal bacteria in children who have developed allergies and children who have not. The current study further looks at cooperation and competition between human cells and other cells that coexist with them. Cells are cooperative between the human cells and gut microflora when bacterial cells produce energy and vitamins. It also is beneficial when bacterial cells help to detect pathogens that are dangerous to the host. Conflict on the other hand is more likely to occur when the needs of microbes and the needs of the host are at “cross-purposes”, or they contradict one another. This internal conflict could lead to chronic afflictions such as inflammatory diseases that are caused directly by the body’s attempt to maintain dominance in this “power-struggle” within the host.

These recent studies have also shown that sugar and fat are most likely contributors to conflicts that arise between host cells and microbes. This is due to the fact that fats and simple sugars also can be used by microbes such as E. coli, which further contributes to the conflict. The results of these studies suggest that a diet consisting of low fiber and abundant sugar leads to the conditions where conflict takes place between human cells and microbes. When their interests clash or coincide, the cells in the body trigger immune responses that lead to different afflictions that include a wide range of diseases, some of them being inflammatory. Similar to fats and simple sugars, iron is also potentially dangerous in the sense that a pathogen could steal iron from host cell proteins which would ultimately compromise the health and nutrition of the host. According to the studies, it is recommended to maintain a diet that has high nutritional density but also low concentrations of pathogens in order to promote cooperation and prevent any competition or conflict that could damage your overall health and wellness.

 

Further reading:

Gut microbiota in 2016: A banner year for gut microbiota research

The Effect of Diet on the Human Gut Microbiome: A Metagenomic Analysis in Humanized Gnotobiotic Mice

Why Microbiota Will Ruin Your New Years Resolution:

This year, people across America will make New Years Resolutions about eating better, losing weight, and being healthier. Unfortunately, microbiota, those pesky little gut bacteria in charge of digestion, will be trying to foil your plans.

Microbiota is the term used to describe the entire population of trillions of microbes living in our intestines. Every person has a unique set of individual microbiota, based both on genetics and environmental factors such as diet. It is crucial in the digestive and immune systems, and in producing some vitamins.

A new study has shown that humans living an unrestricted American diet develop certain gut microbiota, that aren’t so easy to get rid of, and once a person switches to a nutritious, plant based diet, that microbiota interferes, counteracting the effects of the diet. In an experiment at the Center for Genome Sciences and Systems Biology at Washington University in St. Louis, scientists took the microbiota of human samples, half who followed calorie restricted plant-rich diets, and half who had un-restricted diets, and implanted them into test mice. They then switched all the mice to a healthy, plant-rich diet. Although both groups responded to the diet, those with the unrestricted diet had a much weaker and delayed reaction. Scientists then started co-housing the groups of mice. The healthy diet microbiota slowly migrated to the unhealthy mice, accelerating their reaction to the diet, symbolizing hope for future strategies for improving the effectiveness of diets using this data.

Photo:

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As a US government publication, this picture is in the public domain

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

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

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.

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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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