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Gut bacteria, health and genetics are interlinked

By Tim Sandle     Nov 8, 2014 in Science
Analyzing data from a large twin study, researchers have homed in on how host genetics can shape the composition of the microbes in the gut. The types of microbes in the body is connected with human health.
That human health is affected by the microorganisms that reside inside the human body has been demonstrated in a multitude of studies in recent years. For example, gut bacteria have been connected with obesity. It also seems that the microbial content affects how certain medications work. In turn, human health can affect the microbial make-up, and when this is disrupted this can trigger further ill-health effects (such as with the dangers associated with shift working.)
A new finding of interest has emerged: genetic variation can influence microbial types. That means, the genes that a person is born with can partly determine the diversity of microorganisms within the human body, what is termed the human microbiome.
Scientists based at Cornell University have cemented this link. By studying over 1,000 fecal samples from 416 twins, have shown that one group of bacteria — the family Christensenellaceae — are the most highly heritable group of microbes in the human gut.
Why is this group of bacteria important?
The importance of Christensenellaceae, is because of an association with lean body mass index. Previous studies have shown that at least one member this bacterial family was associated with reduced weight gain in mice. To examine the effects of Christensenellaceae researchers introduced lean and obese human fecal samples into germ-free mice. They found animals that received lean fecal samples containing more Christensenellaceae showed reduced weight gain compared with their counterparts.
The new findings have been published in the journal Cell. The paper is titled "Human Genetics Shape the Gut Microbiome."
More about microbiome, Gut bacteria, Health, Genetics
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