The human digestive tract is a festive place, from the perspective of gut bugs. It's as if the trillions of microbes there are looking over their shoulders at the buffet constantly, asking "What'd you get?"
Now, scientists are beginning to answer that question too. Just what is it that all those bugs do, exactly?
Science has long known that gut bugs are good for you. Without them, everything from digestion and immune response would not be the same (imbalances in the composition of one's gut bugs have been linked to obesity and diabetes). Unlike certain harmful bacteria that make news for sickening people, these guys are so friendly to us that evolution has let them move right in.
The new research used DNA fingerprinting to map all species of bugs living in the members of a seven-member Chinese family, a step toward understanding exactly which bugs do what. (The study more than doubles the number of individuals who have had their gut bugs mapped, and showed that the Chinese family's gut "microflora" not only included different species than the five Americans previously mapped, but also that each family member's composition differed.) Down the road, that could help scientists develop drugs or diets that enhance or tamp down on certain microbes to correct "imbalances" causing a health problem.
Its now widely recognized that gut bugs play an important part in peoples health but we dont know which of the hundreds of different species of gut microbes have the biggest influence on us, or exactly how they are involved in the thousands of processes inside the body," said Jeremy Nicholson, lead author of the study from the Department of Biomolecular Medicine at Imperial College London. "Our new study has enabled us to see and map to a greater extent than ever before how the bugs interact with the body."
Now we have developed a new way of exploring the connections between bugs and man we can hope to find a Rosetta Stone to translate the functional properties of the bugs and so improve therapies to treat disorders of the gut and related conditions, he added.
So then, in years to come, we may be hearing as much as we here about genetics and diet today, but viewed through a lens that considers individual's gut bug compositions. Your doctor may be still be telling you that your diet is out of whack, but it may not because you're tipping the scales or clogging your arteries, but because your "gut microflora" is out of whack. And don't be surprised if health nuts start talking about their F.P. counts (that's Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, a key bug regulating metabolism).
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