mostlycloudy
Friday February 12th, 2016 4:50AM

Study: The right bacteria might help fight obesity

By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Call it a hidden ally: The right germs just might be able to help fight fat.

Different kinds of bacteria that live inside the gut can help spur obesity or protect against it, say scientists at Washington University in St. Louis who transplanted intestinal germs from fat or lean people into mice and watched the rodents change.

And what they ate determined whether the good germs could move in and do their job.

Thursday's report raises the possibility of one day turning gut bacteria into personalized fat-fighting therapies, and it may help explain why some people have a harder time losing weight than others do.

"It's an important player," said Dr. David Relman of Stanford University, who also studies how gut bacteria influence health but wasn't involved in the new research. "This paper says that diet and microbes are necessary companions in all of this. They literally and figuratively feed each other."

The research was reported in the journal Science.

We all develop with an essentially sterile digestive tract. Bacteria rapidly move in starting at birth - bugs that we pick up from mom and dad, the environment, first foods. Ultimately, the intestine teems with hundreds of species, populations that differ in people with varying health. Overweight people harbor different types and amounts of gut bacteria than lean people, for example. The gut bacteria we pick up as children can stick with us for decades, although their makeup changes when people lose weight, previous studies have shown.

Clearly, what you eat and how much you move are key to how much you weigh. But are those bacterial differences a contributing cause of obesity, rather than simply the result of it? If so, which bugs are to blame, and might it be possible to switch out the bad actors?

To start finding out, Washington University graduate student Vanessa Ridaura took gut bacteria from eight people - four pairs of twins that each included one obese sibling and one lean sibling. One pair of twins was identical, ruling out an inherited explanation for their different weights. Using twins also guaranteed similar childhood environments and diets.

She transplanted the human microbes into the intestines of young mice that had been raised germ-free.

The mice who received gut bacteria from the obese people gained more weight - and experienced unhealthy metabolic changes - even though they didn't eat more than the mice who received germs from the lean twins, said study senior author Dr. Jeffrey Gordon, director of Washington University's Center of Genome Sciences and Systems Biology.

Then came what Gordon calls the battle of the microbes. Mice that harbored gut bacteria from a lean person were put in the same cages as mice that harbored the obesity-prone germs. The research team took advantage of an icky fact of rodent life: Mice eat feces, so presumably they could easily swap intestinal bugs.

What happened was a surprise. Certain bacteria from the lean mice invaded the intestines of the fatter mice, and their weight and metabolism improved. But the trade was one-way - the lean mice weren't affected.

Moreover, the fatter mice got the bacterial benefit only when they were fed a low-fat, high-fiber diet. When Ridaura substituted the higher-fat, lower-fiber diet typical of Americans, the protective bug swap didn't occur.

Why? Gordon already knew from human studies that obese people harbor less diverse gut bacteria. "It was almost as if there were potential job vacancies" in their intestines that the lean don't have, he explained.

Sure enough, a closer look at the mice that benefited from the bug swap suggests a specific type of bacteria, from a family named Bacteroidetes, moved into previously unoccupied niches in their colons - if the rodents ate right.

How might those findings translate to people? For a particularly hard-to-treat diarrheal infection, doctors sometimes transplant stool from a healthy person into the sick person's intestine. Some scientists wonder if fecal transplants from the lean to the fat might treat obesity, too.

But Gordon foresees a less invasive alternative: Determining the best combinations of intestinal bacteria to match a person's diet, and then growing those bugs in sterile lab dishes - like this study could - and turning them into pills. He estimates such an attempt would take at least five more years of research.
© Copyright 2016 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
S&P 500 index has its best year since 1997
The stock market closed out a record year with more all-time highs on Tuesday, giving U.S. indexes their biggest annual gains in almost two decades.
6:56PM ( 2 years ago )
Colorado readies for 'Green Wednesday' pot sales
Police were adding extra patrols around pot shops in eight Colorado towns that plan to allow recreational sales to anyone over 21 on Jan. 1.
1:52PM ( 2 years ago )
Kerry seeks framework for Mideast peace talks
A senior State Department official says Secretary of State John Kerry will try this week to get Israel and the Palestinians to agree on a framework for negotiating a final peace agreement, yet cautions against raising expectations for Kerry's latest round of shuttle diplomacy.
1:35PM ( 2 years ago )
U.S. News
Ethics laws set to take effect Jan. 1 in Georgia
After dominating much of the legislative session, a set of major ethics reforms is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.
7:04PM ( 2 years ago )
Sex offender held in Hall County for failing to register
A 47-year-old man was booked into the Hall County Jail Tuesday, being held without bond for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender, his second such arrest.
6:09PM ( 2 years ago )
Pharmacy robberies may involve same suspect
Oakwood Police Tuesday afternoon released details in a pharmacy robbery they're investigating, similar to one that happened in the Hall County Tuesday morning.
5:46PM ( 2 years ago )
Local/State News
New details about the possible effects of the Zika virus on the fetal brain are emerging
WASHINGTON (AP) — New details about the possible effects of the Zika virus on the fetal brain emerged Wednesday as U.S. health officials say mosquito eradication here and abroad is key to protect preg...
6:22PM ( 1 day ago )
President Barack Obama is asking Congress for more than $1.8 billion in emergency funding to help fight the Zika virus
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is asking Congress for more than $1.8 billion in emergency funding to fight the Zika virus and the mosquitoes that spread it here and abroad, but says "there s...
10:40PM ( 3 days ago )
Search for Missouri couple wanted for crimes across the South, including Ga., ends with one suspect dead and the other wounded
A weeklong search for a Missouri couple wanted in a series of robberies and abductions across the South ended with one suspect dead and the other wounded Friday, after authorities say they chased the pair across the highway and through a rural neighborhood and exchanged gunfire with them in Florida's Panhandle.
By The Associated Press
9:57PM ( 6 days ago )
Cheap oil will be sticking around for a while, buoying consumers, frustrating oil producers
Cheap oil will be sticking around for a while.That reality is wreaking havoc and causing uncertainty for some governments and businesses, while creating financial windfalls for others. Less expensive...
6:18PM ( 1 week ago )
Cruz (R) expected to claim conservative Iowa caucus victory, with Clinton (D) and Sanders (D) deadlocked among liberal vote
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz swept to victory in Iowa's Republican caucuses Monday, overcoming billionaire Donald Trump and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Among Democrats, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were deadlocked in a tight race.
By The Associated Press
10:55PM ( 1 week ago )