March 3, 2024

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Science Breakthrough: Gut Bacteria Can Prevent Obesity!

Science Breakthrough: Gut Bacteria Can Prevent Obesity!


Science Breakthrough: Gut Bacteria Can Prevent Obesity!

Researchers at the University of Utah’s School of Health have found that a specific type of bacteria in the gut keeps mice from getting fat, suggesting that these bacteria can also control weight in humans.

This beneficial bacteria, called Clostridia, is part of the microbiome — the trillions of bacteria and other microbes that live in the gut.

The study, published in the journal Science, showed that healthy mice had high levels of Clostridium spp. (a group of 20 to 30 species of bacteria), but those with compromised immune systems grew with age. these microorganisms are lost.

Even when fed a healthy diet, mice inevitably gain weight. Giving these microbes back could keep them lean.

Science Breakthrough: Gut Bacteria Can Prevent Obesity!Image credit: Luat Nguyen, University of Utah Health


Dr. June Round, an associate professor of pathology at the University of Utah, was co-senior author of the study, and Assistant Professor W. Zac Stephens, Ph.D., led the study, and Charisse Petersen, Ph.D., led the study.
“Now that we’ve identified the bacteria responsible for this weight loss, it’s possible to really understand what these microbes are doing and whether they have therapeutic value,” Round said.

The results of this study already point in this direction. Petersen and his colleagues found that Clostridium prevents weight gain by blocking the gut’s ability to absorb fat. In the experiments, Clostridium was the only bacteria in the guts of the mice, and the mice with Clostridium were leaner and had less fat than mice with no microbiota at all.

They also had lower levels of the gene CD36, which controls the body’s absorption of fatty acids.

The findings could lead to a treatment that has advantages over fecal transplants and probiotics — currently being widely studied as ways to restore healthy microbiomes, Round said.

Treatments based on the transfer of live flora into the gut are not suitable for everyone, as different diets and other factors can affect which bacteria survive and multiply.

The current study found that one or more molecules produced by Clostridium bacteria prevent the gut from absorbing fat. The next step is to isolate these molecules and further define how they work to see if they could inspire focused treatments for obesity, type 2 diabetes and other related metabolic disorders.

“These bacteria have evolved to live with us and benefit us,” Petersen said. “We have a lot to learn from them.”


A good defense is the best offense

The discovery that mice with compromised immune systems became obese was a nearly useless finding.

By chance, Petersen got into the lab at the right time and found that genetic engineering caused mice lacking myd88 to be “fat as pancakes.” myd88 is a core gene of immune response.

She aged these rodents longer than usual, revealing an unrecognized link between immunity and obesity.

Still, the observation doesn’t answer the question of why these animals became overweight.

Based on her previous research in the Round lab, she suspects it has something to do with microbes.

She helped demonstrate that one role of the immune system is to maintain the balance between the various bacteria in the gut.

Weakening the body’s defenses can cause some bacterial species to dominate others. Sometimes this transition can have negative health effects.

Following similar logic, Petersen and his colleagues determined that the obesity observed in the immunocompromised mice was due to the body’s defense system failing to properly recognize bacteria.

These mice produced fewer antibodies, which normally attach to the microbiome like a target-seeking missile.

This change makes the gut less suitable for Clostridium, leading to more fat absorption and excessive weight gain. Over time, the mice also developed symptoms of type 2 diabetes.

Research by others has shown that obese people are also deficient in Clostridium, which is similar to what happened in these mice, Round noted.

There are also signs that people with obesity or type 2 diabetes may have poor immune responses.

It is hoped that understanding these connections will provide new insights into the prevention and treatment of these prevalent health conditions.

“We stumbled upon a relatively unexplored aspect of type 2 diabetes and obesity,” Round said. “This work will open new research into how the immune response modulates the microbiome and metabolic disease.”




C. Petersen el al., “T cell-mediated regulation of the microbiota protects against obesity, Science (2019). DOI: 10.1126/science.aat9351

Science Breakthrough: Gut Bacteria Can Prevent Obesity!

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Important Note: The information provided is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice.