Gut research gains national attention

Gut research gains national attention

December 11, 2013

December 11, 2013

Should we blame it on our microbes? Along with a likely middle-aged paunch, the average 40-year old packs on a few extra pounds just from the trillions of bacteria that hitch a ride by growing deep inside the human gut. It's estimated that a 1,000 species of bacteria may take up a permanent gut residence to help humans digest food and make essential nutrients.
 
Now, in a new article, Washington Post writer Marlene Cimons took a closer look at these microbes, asking whether or not they may have a major influence on body weight. The answers were suprising, showing instances of weight gain and weight loss associated with different gut microbes.
 
She surveyed leading researchers in this new field, including Biodesign's Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown and Bruce Rittmann, who directs the Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology. The interdiscplinary team's research is currently supported by a 4-year, $1.7 million grant from the NIH as part of a continuing collaboration between Biodesign and Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist Dr. John DiBaise. They started to explore the underlying mechanisms leading to obesity and to contemplate possible alternatives to gastric bypass surgery—currently, one of the most effective treatments for morbid obesity.
 
Currently, the most effective treatment for obesity is some form of bariatric surgery, in which a portion of the stomach and small intestine are bypassed, limiting the amount and type of food an individual can eat. In the case of morbid obesity, such surgeries are the only form of treatment that consistently achieve and maintain major weight loss, thereby decreasing the incidence of co-morbid afflictions and improving survival prospects and quality of life.
 
The two most successful variants of this surgery—known as the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGP) and laparoscopic adjustable band gastric bypass (LAGB)—are being evaluated in their study. Having established in previous work that patients receiving these treatments display a unique composition of gut microbiota different from those without the surgery, the group will explore in depth how the dramatic microbial changes observed in post-surgery patients contribute to the success or failure of the procedure.
 
The group had earlier speculated that the composition of microflora in the human gut may play a vital role in directing the way energy extracted from food is stored and expended.
 
This may lead scientists down a new path toward a microbiotic means of manipulating human health and weight, including one intriguing pathway that has proven effective---though high on the "ick" factor list--- fecal transplants.
 
For Arizona patients who have had gastric by pass or banding in the past or patients who are planning to have gastric by pass, please contact Irene Galaski (Galasky.Irene@mayo.edu) to enroll in the next phase of the ASU-Mayo microbiotic obesity study.

 

Written by: Joe Caspermeyer