Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Lab-grown gut microbes could help combat malnutrition, gastrointestinal diseases

ST. LOUIS, MO (ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO) - Scientists have taken another step toward understanding human nutrition.

Using human fecal samples, the researchers at Washington University School of Medicine were able to grow entire collections of intestinal bacteria in the lab and transplant them into mice to test their response to different types of food. 

Wash University microbiologist Dr. Jeffrey Gordon says scientists will be able to use this method to better understand the health effects of human diets.

"Diets that are representative of different cultures around the world, diets that are emerging as a result of westernization, things that we add to diets – what is the impact of these ingredients not only on our gut microbial community, but our health," Dr. Gordon says.

Gordon says this information could eventually be used to help improve nutrition and develop treatments for obesity, Crohn's disease, and other gastrointestinal problems.

"This sort of approach can be used to understand the nutritional value of foods, how food shapes our gut microbial communities, how microbes are important agents of extracting energy and nutrients from our diet," Dr. Gordon says.

Gordon says this technique could also be used to identify specific microbes that play a key role in human nutrition and health.

Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio


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