BioQuakes

AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: microbiome (Page 1 of 2)

I Have a Gut Feeling that Microbiomes Are the Next Step in Medicine

We as humans are a very genetically diverse species. But what if we could find microorganisms that have over 150 times more genes right within our own guts. Scientists believe that human microbiomes is the key to treating diseases in the future and some analysts believe that the field of human microbiome market will reach $3.2 billion by 2024.

Lack of microbiome diversity has shown to cause diseases like MS, diabetes, and asthma. So microbiomes have demonstrated themselves to be a key component of our health. To better understand these links, many projects launched in the past few years have focused on mapping microbial genesthat are associated with disease. For example, there are certain microbiomes that make cancer drugs ineffective whereas others are actually necessary to make these drugs work. Thus, a patient’s microbiome makeup directly correlates to their survival chances. So the next step in the Microbiome market is modifying the microbiome to work for the patient.

One older technique of doing this is traced back to China thousands of years ago where they would transplant whole microbial communities to treat diarrhea also known as Fecal microbiota transplant (FMT). A more defined approach is where beneficial bacterial strains are delivered, alive, to the patient’s gut.

In the UK, a company called Microbiotica transfers non-pathogenic strains of C. difficile to fight C. difficileinfections, IBD, and cancer. Even though these approaches have drawn a lot of attention to the field, some scientists argue that the bacteria we ingest are not as well adapted to living in our gut as those that have been living there for years thus are not effective.

In France, an opposite approach is used by Enterome where drugs target specific bacteria leaving the rest to the gut microbiome intact. This approach is aimed at treating Chron’s diseaseand cancer.

Another approach is using bacteriophages to kill specific bacteria strains. Eligo Bioscience takes it a step further by using the bacteriophages to deliver CRISPR/Cas9 into the bacteria to kill it by cutting the DNA of the strain carrying the disease only.

Finally, certain companies like Blue Turtle Bio engineer bacteria to make them produce drugs directly within the human gut.

Since this is a rather new field, there are newly emerging companies along with groups who do not believe in the practice. Personally, I do believe in this practice because there is already a strong correlation between our immune system and specific microbiome strands. With microbiome treatments comes microbiome diagnostics to determine which patients can benefit from these therapies. Thus a high number of approaches will initially fail to treat disease. So far, gut infections and inflammatory diseases seem to be strongly correlated to the gut microbiota, so that will be an area where more research should be applied.  A crucial challenge for the field will be to move from correlation to causation, and a lot of research is still needed for that.

 

An Exception to Microbiome Functionality

A recent study was developed to understand how HIV corresponds to the microbial communities of the female sex organ. Dr. David Fredericks- a physician and college professor that teaches “Allergy and Infectious Disease” at University of Washington, led a study on the relationship between the diversity of bacteria in the vagina and how it may lead to HIV. The research population specifically focused in on sub-Saharan African women, who make up 56% of the continent’s infected population.

HIV-infected T cell

Scientists have come to discover that the greater the diversity of a microbiome, the more equipped that region of the body is for combating infections. Although- this concept is strictly relative to the mouth, intestines, and nasal passageway because a variety of bacteria inhabiting a vaginal microbiome can be very detrimental to a woman’s health. One of the leading risks from having a diverse vaginal microbiome community is the “human immunodeficiency virus”.  This virus can be transmitted through sexual contact, childbirth, nursing, or the usage of unsanitary needles. One’s immune system is weakened after contracting HIV because CD4 cells are damaged, which makes it harder for the body to fight off illness. Dr. Fredericks has revealed that the presence of a microbe called Parvimonas Type 1 is usually not a dangerous bacteria, yet the microbe is linked to the virus when there is a higher concentration of it in the vaginal microbiome.

Dr. Fredericks accomplished making this new find by using a strategy called the “dose-dependent effect” to measure the amount of “bugs” in a microbiome community in correlation to the risk of contracting HIV. In doing so, the scientists took cultures from 87 women who were infected with HIV and 262 cultures from women who tested negative for HIV to compare the bacterias found in both microbiomes. During the second half of the study, biologists used screening through a method called “PCR“and identified 20 types of bacteria that could potentially be linked to the virus. The bacterias involved in generating the virus in the female reproductive system were narrowed down to seven specific strains of rogue bacteria. Since the discovery, the biggest question revolving around HIV is determining how to permanently reduce the concentration of these illness-inducing bacterias.

The Microbiome of the African Hunter-Gatherer

Photo Credit: Andy Lederer on Flickr

In a study published on August 24th, 2017 on the gut microbiomes of the Hadza people of Tanzania, several key findings were brought forth on how our microbiomes work.  The microbiome is the trillions of bacteria cells that live in and on all multicellular organisms.  Our knowledge on microbiomes is somewhat limited, but that didn’t stop this team of scientists, led by Justin Sonnenburg of Stanford University, who aimed to track the differences between the microbiomes of different peoples and to catalogue the vast array of bacteria that the microbiome is comprised of.

The Hadza, as a hunter-gatherer group, vary their diet heavily depending on the Tanzanian seasons.  During the dry season, they have more access to hunted game. During the wet season, their diet is mainly comprised of berries and honey.  The bacteria present in their microbiomes when tested during the different seasons reflects this change in diet.  Microbes such as the phylum Bacteriodetes varies heavily with the seasons, a trend which has been seen in several other nonindustrialized groups.

The researches then compared their findings among the Hadza to industrialized peoples as well as other nonindustrialized peoples and found that “the groups of microbes that varied seasonally in the Hadza were largely absent in the industrialized microbiomes, but present in the microbiomes of people who live similarly to them.”  This is further evidence on the relationship between the human microbiome and environment that could play a key role in the future as we discover how the microbiome affects human health.

For the original article on this study, click here

This Easy Method Will Make Sure You Never Get Strep Again

More than 3 million people a year get diagnosed with strep throat, however since it is a minor illness that is very easily treated, people do not see the issue with getting sick almost every year. Because bacteria reproduce in just a few days, many generations of bacteria go by very quickly; and every time they reproduce, they are also evolve.  Meaning, every time one takes antibiotics, the bacteria becomes more and more resistant to it, until we can’t kill them anymore with the same antibiotic.

For many humans around the world, the thought of not being able to fix a simple bacterial infection with an antibiotic is quite frightening; however recent discoveries about the human microbiome puts this fear away.

Bacteria at the microscopic level

There are many helpful bacteria that live in the throat and mouth. Most of these helpful bacteria are probiotics.  The probiotic that specifically attacks strep, is actually another strain of strep called Streptococcus salivarius K12. This probiotic produces two lantibiotics that attack Streptococcus pyogenes, the species that are responsible for the known strep throat.

From this knowledge, scientists did an experiment that gave one group a tablet that, when chewed, released billions of colonies of S. salivarius K12 and gave another group a tablet that did nothing. The group that received the probiotic, showed a 90% reduction in strep episodes than the group that received nothing. This information also helped decrease the time on antibiotics for strep by 30 times.

You can buy doses of S. salivarius K12 here if you are interested in not only staying away from strep throat, but also improving your overall oral microbiome.

If you are interested in reading more about not just the mouth and oral human microbiome, but the whole entire human microbiome; click here!

 

Valuable Poop

Yep, that’s right. Poop can be valuable.

Wait? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Valuable poop?

Yes, as much of an oxymoron as it sounds, poop can be valuable. In a more recent treatment, fecal transplants have proved to be successful in helping with C. difficile infections. Antibiotics stop working, and all hope seems lost. However, there is a solution. Healthy people donate their stool (in the vernacular: poop) to those afflicted by a C. difficile infection in order to restore the health of their gut microbiome. The healthy microbial environment in the healthy stool restores the balance.

Look at that C. difficile, bad stuff!

How does this work? Do the microbiomes go to war?

Truth is, researchers are still trying to figure out exactly how the healthy gut microbiome is restored. We know that C. difficile can take over after treatment with antibiotics because it is faster growing and more resistant to antibiotics. They dominate the other microbes. The insertion of healthy stool with a balanced microbiome into a microbiome that is dominated by C. difficile will restore the microbiome’s diversity and balance. Basically, the healthy gut microbiome will kill or just outnumber the C. difficile, and then the problem is resolved. Scientists still aren´t really sure how this happens but are looking into it.

So what? I’ve never heard of a C. Difficile infection?

Good for you. C. Difficile has actually been afflicting many people in different ways, and some doctors even call it an ‘epidemic’. Even so, this new development has lead researches to believe that this could lead to something bigger. Some have tested if this same technique will help inflammatory bowel disease, to which they had promising results (however, still heterogeneous and statistically inconclusive). This is a creative way of using the microbial environment to help diseases, and an even more creative way to study microbial interactions.

 

Would you get a fecal transplant if it were recommended?

How do you think the C. Difficile is banished by the other microbes?

What do you think regarding the future of antibiotics?

Genetically engineering the microbiome

Researchers from Harvard University have successfully taken the first steps in creating a synthetic microbiome. Using signaling between Salmonella Typhimurium and E. coli, the team was able to promote a new “genetic signal-transmission system” in mice.

A cluster of E. coli, a common species of gut bacteria.

With the hope of inducing interspecies bacterial communication, the researchers manipulated the bacterial signaling method of quorum sensing where bacteria receive and send signaling molecules in order to gauge their population density, performing a group behavior after reaching a certain threshold. By using the variant acyl-HSL quorum sensing, a version absent in mammals, the researchers were able to assess the feasibility of using a signaling system nonnative to its host.

In order to see if the two bacterial species successfully communicated, the researchers introduced both a signaler circuit and a responder circuit into the mice. The signaler circuit, put into Salmonella Typhimurium, contained a gene called luxI that, when turned on by a molecule called ATC, produced a quorum signaling molecule. This molecule was received by the bacteria with the responder circuit, E. coli, triggering a cro gene. This gene then turned on a LacZ gene, which caused the bacteria to turn blue when plated with special agar, and another cro gene, creating a loop that continuously activated the LacZ gene. This served as an indicator, as a blue glow would illustrate if the interspecies communication and the E.coli’s “memory” of it were successful.

After the mice were given the two edited strains of bacteria and placed in a container with ATC-infused water for two days, the researchers analyzed their fecal samples. They found that all of them turned blue, indicating that the genetically engineered signaling system was successful: the E. coli received and remembered a signal from Salmonella Typhimurium in response to an environmental factor. This effective engineered communication, as the Director of Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering puts it, is a major step forward in “engineer[ing] intestinal microbes for the better while appreciating that they function as part of a complex community”.

With the basic principles of a synthetic microbiome a success, the researchers now want to experiment with new bacterial species and signaling molecules, bringing them closer towards their ultimate goal of engineering a gut microbiome that can perform tasks ranging from improving digestion to curing diseases. As the “next frontier in medicine [and] wellness,” the microbiome will no doubt be a key pillar of medicinal research for decades to come.

Microbiomes… an Athlete’s Key to Success!

For years, scientists have been trying to see what makes a professional athlete different from someone who didn’t quite make the cut. Is there something that professional and elite athletes have that other athletes or inactive individuals don’t? Is it possible to give a mediocre athlete a supplement to improve their performance? Dr. Jonathan Schieman and George Church from the Wyss Institute at Harvard University believe the answer is yes, and they think they’ve found the answer, microbiomes.

Dr. Schieman and his team conducted thorough research on NBA players, marathoners, and Olympic rowers to see if there was a common microbiome that these high-level athletes all shared that sedentary individuals did not. After immense amounts of testing and making sure the proper controls were in place to avoid confounding, and lurking variables, Schieman and his team were able to find one particular organism that was elevated in the guts of athletes’ bodies more than sedentary individuals.

Schieman and his team were able to isolate a particularly abundant organism in athletes that feeds off lactic acid. Lactic acid is a naturally occurring chemical compound that generates during particularly intense and strenuous muscle exercise. Thus, the researchers believe that the organism they isolated has a particularly important effect on making athletes stronger. In addition, the researchers have recently conducted a new study on rugby players and found that rugby players have more of this organism in their body as well as a more diverse range of microbiomes than a sedentary individual.

The microbiome space is particularly new, so one cannot conclude that these findings will be significant to athletes in the future, a realization that Schieman has come to terms with. However, if Schieman and Church find more conclusive and concrete evidence that these, and other, organisms can yield a much better athlete, the sports world could change forever.

What do you think? Can microbiomes be used to make more elite athletes? Only time will tell.

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The research is from Jonathan Schieman and George Church from the Wyss Institute at Harvard University. A comprehensive scientific journal entry has not been released to the public due to intellectual property concerns, as the findings are part of a privately-owned company.

Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:EscherichiaColi_NIAID.jpg

Microbiome Genes have Macro-significance

Ever been told that the little things matter in life? This same proclamation that you’ve been told by your elders rings true in your gut: one small modification to your human gut microbiome (a batch of bacteria that call your digestive tract home) can have drastic effects on your metabolism.

A. Sloan Devlin, assistant professor at Harvard medical school, carried out a study that proved the importance of the gut microbiome. She first located the gene in “an abundant gut bacterium” for an enzyme that processes bile acids. She then removed that gene from the bacterium. Next, she “colonized” “germ-free” mice with one of two types of the gut bacterium: either with the bile-processing enzyme or without the bile-processing enzyme. The results were surprising.

Credit: mcmurryjulie on pixabay

After both mice were fed the same high-fat, high-sugar diet, the mice without the bile-processing enzyme “had more fat in the liver and gained weight much more slowly than the other group. They also used proportionately less fat and more carbohydrate for energy.” Changing one single enzyme in a gut bacterium appears to change “whether the host is using [primarily] fats versus carbohydrates” for energy.

Even more staggering was the “correlation of lean body mass to energy expenditure.” Typically, in humans and mice, the more lean body mass an organism has, the more energy it expends. However, for the mice without the bile-processing enzyme, this relationship “broke down.” Devlin hypothesizes that this change could be due to a “signaling,” a process in which “physical states in the body trigger a cascade of genes to switch on or off.” Researchers can use this knowledge to treat diseases: figure out which microbiome bacteria activate which genetic switches, and better treatment for genetic problems such as, acid imbalances, metabolic disorders and obesity, may become a reality.

Devlin is sure to stress that this groundbreaking microbiome research is just her “first step.” Although this study was carried out on “germ-free” mice, Devlin dreams that one day she may use her research to improve the health of her own species: as Devlin states, her research brings her “one step closer to humans.”

 

Genetic Engineering will Create Super Humans?!

“Synthetic microbiome? Genetic engineering allows different species of bacteria to communicate”

Before seeking to analyze how genetic engineering enables the alteration of the microbiome, it is essential to understand the nature of the microbiome. Humans’ microbiomes consist of “trillions of microorganisms (also called microbiota or microbes) of thousands of different species.” Initially, peoples’ microbiomes are solely determined by their DNA; however, as time goes on, a person’s microbiome can be shaped by other factors, including the environment in which they live, or their diet. The microbiome contains both helpful and deleterious microbes, but “In a healthy body, pathogenic and symbiotic microbiata coexist without problem.”

According to researchers from the Wyss Institute at Harvard University, Harvard Medical School (HMS), and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, it may now be possible to create a “synthetic microbiome.” The team did a study in which they utilized a particular type of quorum sensing known as acyl-homoserine lactone sensing. Quorum sensing allows bacteria to regulate the expression of genes and to detect the size of bacterial colonies, through signal molecules. First, the team inserted “two new genetic circuits into different colonies of a strain of E. coli bacteria.” One of the circuits acted as a “signaler” and the other acted as a “responder.”

File:E. coli Bacteria (16578744517).jpg Picture of E. Coli bacteria

In short, the team inserted a single copy of luxl, a gene activated by the molecule anhydrotetracycline (ATC), into the signaling circuit. The signaling molecule formed by this gene then binded to the receptor circuit, which activated another gene, known as cro. The cro gene creates Cro proteins, and these proteins triggered a “memory element” within the responder circuit, in which two more genes, LacZ and another cro, were produced. If the signaling molecule is received (which it was), the presence of LacZ causes the bacterium to turn blue. Most importantly, the additional cro gene essentially keeps the “memory element” on, so this cycle continues.

To make sure that this system works in living organisms, the researchers tested it in mice. Signs of signal transmission in the mouse’s gut between the signaler S. Typhimurium bacteria and E. coli responder bacteria were detected. In other words, the engineered circuits allowed the bacteria to communicate with one another.

While these findings are extremely exciting, scientists have yet to discover whether or not other genetically engineered species of bacteria will also be able to facilitate communication between molecules. A Founding Core Faculty member of the Wyss Institute said that “[They] aim to create a synthetic microbiome with completely or mostly engineered bacteria species in our gut, each of which has a specialized function.” If this is achieved, we will move one step closer to becoming super humans!

Feature Image: “Free for Commercial Use” and “No attribution required”

Whole-Grain Bread: The Healthy Choice…or is it?

Contrary to popular belief, whole-grain bread might not be healthier for everyone. A new study has determined that whether white bread or whole-grain bread is healthier for you depends on the microbes in your gut. After studying 20 people for one week each, researchers found that some people’s blood sugar levels raised after eating standard white bread while others did not. Similarly, they found that some people’s blood sugar rose when eating standard whole grain bread. The researchers, Eran Elinav and Eran Segal, studied the mix of microbes in the stool samples as well as their genetic makeup.

This study is part of a growing group of studies that support personalized nutrition that is customized to your genetic makeup rather than a plan for everyone. The same group has also done other research in the nutrition field in Israel, where they studied how people respond to eating certain foods.

Gut Microbiome is Responsible for PTSD?

Recently, there have been many studies linking gut microbiome to PTSD. But how exactly are they connected?

Humans have an infinite number of organisms creating a unique composition of bacteria in the gut. It has been suspected before that any number of combinations of these gut microbiome can affect our health in different ways. One way is that they can cause neuropsychiatric disorders like PTSD or even just weaken mental toughness. Either way, the topic of gut microbiomes is definitely worth researching.

A recent study conducted by 22 scientists at Stellenbosch University in South Africa showed that compared to healthy, unaffected people, those with PTSD had noticeably lower levels of three gut bacteria: Actinobacteria, Lentisphaerae, and Verrucomicrobia. However, it was also noted from that study that the loss of these three gut bacteria may have occurred in earlier stages of life rather than the later stages when people generally develop PTSD.

According to a study conducted by researches of Oregon State University, when someone suffers from stress, their gut microbiomes become disordered and start to act oddly. Therefore, the lower levels of the three gut microbiomes could indicate that the levels of those microbiomes are throwing off the balance that is needed to maintain a stress and anxiety free mind which can prevent PTSD.

There is one catch about this result: that correlation does not confirm anything. Scientists conducting studies could only identify a correlation with gut microbiome and PTSD, but could not determine a cause.

Many are hopeful that these results will lead to discovery of future treatments because the microbiome can easily be changed with prebiotics, probiotics, synbiotics, or just dietary changes.

Although we do not know if these three gut microbiomes cause PTSD or come with PTSD, we do know that we are now one step closer to finding a cure or at least a better treatment for PTSD.

For more information click here or here!

Hunter-Gatherer to Westernized Human Gut Biomes

Somewhere between the time of early hunter-gatherer humans, and the present-day humans living in modernized Western societies, the human gut biome lost much of its diversity. New research has contributed another clue as to the evolution of the human gut biome.

An international team of scientists studied the fecal samples of an intermediary group between hunter-gatherers and Westernized humans. The Bantu community in Africa is a traditional, agricultural population that has incorporated some available Western practices, including the use of antibiotics and therapeutic drugs.

 

Bantu people; Steve Evans,  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Bantu#/media/File:Mozambique001.jpg

The scientists compared the Bantu gut biomes to those of the BaAka pygmy population, who resemble early hunter-gatherer populations and have no Western influences, and to the gut biomes of humans living in modern, Westernized societies.

By analyzing the sequence data of the three human biomes, the scientists placed the Bantu’s biome composition in between the BaAka’s and Westernized humans’. The Bantu shared similar bacterial species as the BaAka, but lacked many of the traditional bacteria that the BaAka possessed. In fact, the BaAka had such a different biome composition that their gut more closely resembled wild primate biomes!

 

Based on the functions of the variable bacterial groups between the three populations, the team hypothesizes that the boosted carbohydrate-processing pathways in Bantu and American biomes is a result of the sugars in our diet, whereas the BaAka do not have much access to such foods and thus do not have such bacterial populations.

Ultimately, the scientists have accepted that our diet contributes significantly to our gut biome composition.

Possible Links Between Gut Microbes and Obesity, Cancer & Autism

While the bacteria in our gut play a vital role in the digestion process, recent findings have suggested that it could effect much more in our bodies. New studies have found possible links between the bacteria in our gut and obesity, cancer and autism.

Creative Commons image link

A study done by Cornell University and King’s College London revealed that Christensenellaceae minuta, a strain of gut bacteria, was found more often and in larger quantities in people with lower body masses. To investigate whether the bacteria is actually linked with obesity, researchers added the same bacteria into the guts of mice and compared their weight gain to mice lacking the bacteria. The research showed that the mice with Christensenellaceae minuta gained noticeably less weight than the mice lacking the bacteria. While research is still in its early stages, these results have made an exciting connection between bacteria in our gut and weight gain, which could dramatically impact the future of our health.

In addition to obesity, the bacteria in our gut has also been linked to cancer- in both beneficial and detrimental aspects. Researchers from the National Cancer Institute tested the effect of gut bacteria on chemotherapy in mice and found that the chemotherapy was significantly less effective in the mice lacking the bacteria. Similarly, another study found that cyclophosphamide, an antitumor drug, was less effective in mice with insufficient gut bacteria compared to those with normal levels. While these studies showed positive links between gut bacteria and cancer, other studies have found adverse effects of gut bacteria.

Unfortunately, a study published in The Journal of Cancer Research in 2012 has made a possible connection between Lactobacillus johnsonii, a strain of gut bacteria, and lymphoma, cancer of the white blood cells. The study claims that the presence of this specific strain of bacteria could lead to the development of lymphoma. Another study done in the UK in 2013 found that a specific gut bacterium, Helicobacter pylori, has the ability to deactivate the part of our immune system responsible for regulating inflammation. In effect, this could cause stomach cancer and ulcers.

While it may seem like a stretch, numerous studies have found a possible link to autism and the bacteria in our gut. A study done in 2013 by Arizona State University found that compared to children without autism, children suffering from autism had lower levels of Prevotella, Coprococcus and Veillonellaceae, three strains of gut bacteria. Even more surprisingly, another study revealed that the presence of Bacteroides fragilis in the gut reduced autism-like symptoms in mice. Research in this field is still in its primary stages, as researchers are trying to figure out if these connection are in fact related, and if so, how the bacteria directly effects these conditions.

 

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

More Bacteria than Human?

The well being of humans is best when we are cooperating with others whether that be other humans or bacteria inside of us. According to Matthew Bull “the human gut microbiome and its role in both health and disease has been the subject of extensive research, establishing its involvement in human metabolism, nutrition, physiology, and immune function.” An imbalance in our microbiome will often result in some type of sickness so it is very important to keep our guts healthy. It is likely that there are more bacteria cells in our gut than there are our own cells. So in this image right here  there would be more bacteria cells than human cells. Some people even consider the microbiome a bacteria ecosystem that just happens to be in our gut. While this may sound bad, these bacteria often break down food for us and supply us with energy needed to do daily activities. It is truly fascinating to think that we have many living things inside of us that may even outnumber what is actually considered “us”. But is it possible for these bacteria to take over our bodies? The answer is probably no…we hope, but if we continue to eat well and stay healthy these bacteria should continue to help us. However, if we eat poorly and don’t stay healthy these bacteria can end up being a problem for use. So at the end of the day eating health helps the relationship between us and the bacteria inside of us stay healthy and lets us stay healthy.

The diet that we should have to keep a healthy relationship with these bacteria involve eating less sugar and fat and eating more fiber. A diet with a lot of fat and sugar but little fiber can lead to illness. It is also best to stay away from eating a lot of iron. There are some things that help our microbiomes such as milk, milk has proteins in it that help keep our microbiomes health. So eat less sugar, bad fats, and iron and eat more fiber and drink more milk.

 

The Microbiome’s Role in the Success of a Diet

Just in time for the many New Years resolutions where people promise to go on a diet to lose weight or get healthier, a new study covered by Huffingtonpost has found that the bacteria in your gut can affect the success of your diet.  This new research has demonstrated that all the diet alterations in the world, whether you give up pizza or ice cream, may do nothing if your intestinal bacteria are out of whack from a life of eating poorly.

Originally published in the journal Cell Host and Microbe, these new findings tell us that switching to a healthier diet may not help much, at least in the beginning, if you still have unhealthy bacteria left over from your non-diet days.

However, according to Dr. Jeffrey Gordon, a biologist at Wash U in St. Louis and senior author of the paper, the scientific community has found a way to “mine the gut microbial communities of different humans to identify the organisms  that help promote the effects of a particular diet in ways that might be beneficial.” In simpler words, research has shown that short-term dietary changes can alter the gut microbial community.

In order to demonstrate these findings, the researchers examined two groups: one that ate the standard, high-calorie American diet and one that ate a more plant-based, lower calorie diet. As expected, they found that those with the standard American diet had less diverse microbiota and that people with a plant-based diet had a more diverse, and healthier, microbiome. Diversity in the gut is important because it aids digestion, nutrient absorption, and immune system function; on the flip side, an unhealthy microbiome can contribute to inflammation, anxiety, depression, poor digestion and even autoimmune diseases.

Link to Image

The next step in the experiment involved analyzing the microbiome set-up in mice who had been colonized with bacteria from the human subject. These mice were either fed the native diet of their human donor (American or healthy), or the opposite diet. Analysis of the results revealed that all mice saw a change in their bacteria in response to the diet, but the bacteria of the American diet showed a weaker response to being changed to a plant-based diet ― their microbial communities didn’t increase and diversify as much as the mice colonized with the bacteria of the humans who ate a plant-based diet.

In conclusion, your gut would definitely benefit from a diet more heavily based on plants and vegetables, but if you have been eating a very unhealthy diet thus far, it may take a little longer to see results, as the makeup of your internal microbiome has to change.

Evolution of the Human Gut Microbiome

NIH Image Gallery Image Link

According to an article on Science Daily, Westerners have a very different human gut than hunter-gatherers. Research suggests that Westerners tend to have a less diverse human gut. However, the reason for why is still unclear. Researches from this study have observed two particular groups of people. The hunter-gatherers, known as BaAka pygmies, relied on foods such as fish, fruits, and vegetables. Whereas the group of Westernizers, the Bantu, relied on a market economy. The Bantu grew fruits, other plants and raised goats. They also used antibiotics and therapeutic drugs available.

The results of the study revealed that while the  BaAka and Bantu gut microbes were from similar bacterial species, the abundance of traditional bacterial groups was decreased in the Bantu. When researchers delved into what could have caused the difference between the two groups, they found that diets are the most important driver of microbiome composition in humans.

Another study done by evolutionary biologist, Andrew Moelle, suggests that humans and animals have inherited some bacteria from their ancestors. Moelle studied three types of bacteria living in the feces of wild chimps, bonobos, gorilla and a group of people from Connecticut. He concluded that 2 of the three bacterial trees matched primate relationships. Moelle also expressed how these relationships are getting harder to study due to the effect that industrialization and antibiotics have. They have reduced the diversity of bacteria living in and on humans.  Microbial geneticist, Julia Segre, expressed that humans have been exposed to antibiotics and modern life and as a result, Wild African apes might “still have their ancient gut flora, but the people in Connecticut might not.

A study done by Howard Ochman found that human guts most closely resemble the gut of a gorilla. Like the other researchers, Ochman acknowledges that as a result of modern humans there is a loss of microbial diversity. He also explains how this can be a problem because humans have lost a number of bugs that help digest plant matter. However, humans have gained others that help digest meat.

 

The Human Gut Microbiome and Autism Spectrum Disorders

Researchers of the human gut microbiome have made connections to the autism spectrum disorder.  A gut microbiome involves the digestive tract microbes.  To learn more general information click here.  Studies tested DNA of children with gastrointestinal complaints.  Researches compared children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and mainstream children.  It was found that children with Autism Spectrum Disorder had too many Clostridium or Desulfovibrio clusters.  To learn more about these gene clusters click here. Developing fever, receiving oral antibiotics, or ingesting probiotics are all likely to alter the gut microflora.  When children with Autism Spectrum Disorder do the above, they have exhibited improvement in their gastrointestinal pains; however, there hasn’t been scientific research, as it has only been found anecdotally. Research has been limited due to the difficult culture-dependent techniques; however, metagenomic technology could be used to discover and reduce the effects of the gut microbiome as a part in Autism Spectrum Disorder.

A longitudinal study completed in May 2016 shows more progress that scientists have made in discovering different aspects of autism in relation to the microbiome.  For two weeks, stool samples were collected from patients with autism and their siblings without autism in order to be compared. Sarcina ventriculi, Barnesiella intestihominis, and Clostridium bartlettii are organisms that are related to autism. They were found in the stool samples of children with autism, but not their siblings. Gastrointestinal symptoms were reported on days 6-8 of the study for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, where Haemophilus parainfluenzae was detected at the onset. These patients also exhibited behavioral challenges during these days.

Though scientists have not found a diagnosis for Autism Spectrum Disorder yet, it is clear that the gut microbiome plays a role in the development. Further research that is not merely based off of a handful of patients needs to be completed to learn more.

Photo of Gut Flora

Sometimes less is better. Especially in the case of germs.

Scanning electron micrograph of Escherichia coli

Photo by NIAID

Apparently we’re healthier than we thought!!

Throughout the 20th century, scientists who studied the microbiome had thought that humans contain around 9000 times more germs than human cells.  Scientists now believe, however, that that number is more like 30 percent.

Micro biologists: Ron Sender, Ron Milo, and Shai Fuchs took on the challenge to actually find out the ratio of bacteria to cells in the human body.  First, its important to know the types of cells that make up the human body.  One might think that muscle and fat cells make up the largest portion of human cells in the body but that is wildly incorrect.  In fact, despite their weight and size dominance, they make up a measly .2 percent of the body’s cells while blood cells make up 90 percent (mostly red blood cells).

The colon houses the most bacteria in the human body by a long shot.  This makes sense as it is the pathway for human feces out of the body and reaches up to 5 feet in length.  The “trio” of scientists estimate that the human body contains somewhere between 30 trillion and 50 trillion cells and that the bacterial count is around 30 to 60 percent higher than the amount of cells.

Now, despite the insightful findings of Sender, Milo, and Fuchs, the microbiome community still has a lot of research to do into the subject of germ:cell ratio in humans and scientists believe that the trio missed some important factors in their experiments and as geneticist Julie Segre points out, “Other researchers also point out that the new paper’s calculations focused on bacteria. Yet the body can host other types of microbes as well. Those include viruses, fungi and archaea (Ar-KEE-uh). Viruses tend to vastly outnumber bacteria, so they could skew the microbe-to-human cell ratio upwards.”

The most important and prevailing part of the trio’s research was that the amount of bacteria that we have in our body and attached to human cells is much less than we had previously believed.

https://student.societyforscience.org/article/cell-recount-people-host-far-fewer-germs?mode=topic&context=79

Original Article 

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

 

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