Monday 23 November 2020

Discoveries reshape understanding of gut microbiome


The human gut is home to microorganisms that outnumber our cells by a factor of 10 to 1. Now, discoveries by scientists at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation have redefined how the so-called gut microbiome operates and how our bodies coexist with some of the 100 trillion bacteria that make it up.


The new findings appear in the journal Science and could lead to new therapies for inflammatory bowel disease and people who've had portions of their bowels removed due to conditions like colon cancer and ulcerative colitis. They also help explain why the use of antibiotics can create a multitude of problems in the digestive system.



Using research models, scientists found the microbiome controls the creation of a sticky layer of special forms of sugar-enriched mucus that encapsulates and travels with fecal matter. The mucus -- which the researchers showed not to be static as previously thought -- acts as a barrier between bacteria in feces and the thousands of immune cells in the colon. Without the mucus, the whole system gets thrown out of balance.


In the study, the researchers found that the fecal matter of mice treated with a broad-spectrum antibiotic had no trace of the mucus coating. And when mice without this protective barrier received a transplant of fecal matter with microbiome, their mucus production jump-started.


This may have significant treatment implications for patients whose microbiome is out of balance.




Kirk Bergstrom, Xindi Shan, David Casero, Proximal colon–derived O-glycosylated mucus encapsulates and modulates the microbiota. Science, 2020; 370 (6515): 467 DOI: 10.1126/science.aay7367


Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle, Pharmaceutical Microbiology Resources (

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